Clin Microbiol Infect 2011; 17: 533–538
Matrix-assisted laser-desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) is positioned at the forefront of bacterial identification in the future. Its performance needed to be evaluated in a routine Bacteriology laboratory to determine its true benefits. A prospective study was carried out in the Bacteriology laboratory of the Pellegrin University Hospital in Bordeaux, France, from April to May 2009. Bacterial isolates from clinical samples were identified by conventional phenotypic bacteriological methods [Phoenix (Becton-Dickinson) or API strips (bioMérieux)] and in parallel with a mass spectrometer (Ultraflex III TOF/TOF and the biotyper database from Bruker Daltonics). In case of a discrepancy between these results at the genus level, a 16S rRNA and/or rpoB gene sequencing was performed. Of the 1013 bacteria tested, 837 (82.6%) were correctly identified at the species level by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry (MS) without extraction and 189 after extraction, i.e. 986 (97.3%) were correctly identified at the species level by MALDI-TOF MS, vs. 945 (93.2%) by phenotypic methods. Indeed, the extraction step was necessary for only 15% of the isolates. These results were even better when considering the genus, reaching almost 99% with MALDI-TOF MS and 98% with phenotypic methods. The performance of MALDI-TOF MS is very attractive considering its efficiency and rapidity, and the technique constitutes a precious tool for bacteriological identification in a routine laboratory.