In the area of microbiological diagnosis of infectious diseases, the availability of a method that allows determination of the causal agent of infection in minutes rather than hours would facilitate more specific, targeted treatments.
In bacterial and fungal infections, although a series of techniques exist for direct identification of the pathogen in pathological products, culturing continues to be the most widely used method for detecting these pathogens.
Once the microorganisms have been isolated, they are identified. Conventional identification of bacteria and yeasts is mainly based on biochemical testing and antigen detection (agglutination and immunochromatography).
Several hours or days may be needed to complete agglutination techniques, with the consequent delay in obtaining definite identification, whereas immunochromatography can only identify a limited number of microorganisms.
Mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF) is based on identification of a specific protein profile of each bacterium, and in a large number of cases, it is possible to reliably identify the species in less than 10 minutes.
The reproducibility of the MALDI BioTyper is based on determination of the most abundant proteins, including ribosome proteins, present in all living cells. Thus, the protein profiles generated are not significantly affected by variability in the culture conditions.
Mass spectrometry also enables joint typing of strains belonging to the same bacterial species for use in epidemiologic studies.