Volatile compound profiling for the identification of Gram-negative bacteria by ion-molecule reaction–mass spectrometry



Michael E. Dolch, Department of Anesthesiology, University Hospital Großhadern, Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, 81366 Munich, Germany. E-mail: michael.dolch@med.uni-muenchen.de



Fast and reliable methods for the early detection and identification of micro-organism are of high interest. In addition to established methods, direct mass spectrometry–based analysis of volatile compounds (VCs) emitted by micro-organisms has recently been shown to allow species differentiation. Thus, a large number of pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria, which comprised Acinetobacter baumannii, Enterobacter cloacae, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella oxytoca, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris and Serratia marcescens, were subjected to headspace VC composition analysis using direct mass spectrometry in a low sample volume that allows for automation.

Methods and Results

Ion-molecule reaction–mass spectrometry (IMR-MS) was applied to headspace analysis of the above bacterial samples incubated at 37°C starting with 102 CFU ml−1. Measurements of sample VC composition were performed at 4, 8 and 24 h. Microbial growth was detected in all samples after 8 h. After 24 h, species-specific mass spectra were obtained allowing differentiation between bacterial species.


IMR-MS provided rapid growth detection and identification of micro-organisms using a cumulative end-point model with a short analysis time of 3 min per sample.

Significance and impact of the study

Following further validation, the presented method of bacterial sample headspace VC analysis has the potential to be used for bacteria differentiation.