Insight into Identification of Acinetobacter Species by Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization Time of Flight Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) in the Clinical Laboratory

  • Xiuyuan Li
  • Yanyan Tang
  • Xinxin Lu
Research Article


Currently, the capability of identification for Acinetobacter species using MALDI-TOF MS still remains unclear in clinical laboratories due to certain elusory phenomena. Thus, we conducted this research to evaluate this technique and reveal the causes of misidentification. Briefly, a total of 788 Acinetobacter strains were collected and confirmed at the species level by 16S rDNA and rpoB sequencing, and subsequently compared to the identification by MALDI-TOF MS using direct smear and bacterial extraction pretreatments. Cluster analysis was performed based on the mass spectra and 16S rDNA to reflect the diversity among different species. Eventually, 19 Acinetobacter species were confirmed, including 6 species unavailable in Biotyper 3.0 database. Another novel species was observed, temporarily named A. corallinus. The accuracy of identification for Acinetobacter species using MALDI-TOF MS was 97.08% (765/788), regardless of which pretreatment was applied. The misidentification only occurred on 3 A. parvus strains and 20 strains of species unavailable in the database. The proportions of strains with identification score ≥ 2.000 using direct smear and bacterial extraction pretreatments were 86.04% (678/788) and 95.43% (752/788), χ2 = 41.336, P < 0.001. The species similar in 16 rDNA were discriminative from the mass spectra, such as A. baumannii & A. junii, A. pittii & A. calcoaceticus, and A. nosocomialis & A. seifertii. Therefore, using MALDI-TOF MS to identify Acinetobacter strains isolated from clinical samples was deemed reliable. Misidentification occurred occasionally due to the insufficiency of the database rather than sample extraction failure. We suggest gene sequencing should be performed when the identification score is under 2.000 even when using bacterial extraction pretreatment.

Graphical Abstract


Acinetobacter Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time of flight mass spectrometry Misidentification Database Clinical laboratory Pretreatment 


Funding Information

This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China “Study about Infection Biomarkers of Acinetobacter baumannii based on omics” (Grant no. 81371861).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interests

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This research did not require ethical approval.

Informed Consent

This research did not require informed consent.


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Copyright information

© American Society for Mass Spectrometry 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Laboratory Medicine, Beijing Tongren HospitalCapital Medical UniversityBeijingChina

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