Applications of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry in clinical diagnostic microbiology


Correspondence: Gilbert Greub, Institute of Microbiology, University Hospital Center and University of Lausanne, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 21 314 49 79; fax: +41 21 314 40 60; e-mail:


Until recently, microbial identification in clinical diagnostic laboratories has mainly relied on conventional phenotypic and gene sequencing identification techniques. The development of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOFMS) devices has revolutionized the routine identification of microorganisms in clinical microbiology laboratories by introducing an easy, rapid, high throughput, low-cost, and efficient identification technique. This technology has been adapted to the constraint of clinical diagnostic laboratories and has the potential to replace and/or complement conventional identification techniques for both bacterial and fungal strains. Using standardized procedures, the resolution of MALDI-TOFMS allows accurate identification at the species level of most Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial strains with the exception of a few difficult strains that require more attention and further development of the method. Similarly, the routine identification by MALDI-TOFMS of yeast isolates is reliable and much quicker than conventional techniques. Recent studies have shown that MALDI-TOFMS has also the potential to accurately identify filamentous fungi and dermatophytes, providing that specific standardized procedures are established for these microorganisms. Moreover, MALDI-TOFMS has been used successfully for microbial typing and identification at the subspecies level, demonstrating that this technology is a potential efficient tool for epidemiological studies and for taxonomical classification.