How MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry can aid the diagnosis of hard-to-identify pathogenic bacteria–the rare and the unknown

Markus Kostrzewa, E. Nagy, Percy Schröttner, Arthur B. Pranada

Research output: Review article


Introduction: Ten years after its introduction into clinical microbiology, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry has become the standard routine identification tool for bacteria in most laboratories. The technology has accelerated analyses and improved the quality of results. The greatest significance has been observed for bacteria that were challenging to be identified by traditional methods. Areas covered: We searched in existing literature (Pubmed) for reports how MALDI-TOF MS has contributed to identification of rare and unknown bacteria from different groups. We describe how this has improved the diagnostics in different groups of bacteria. Reference patterns for strains which yet cannot be assigned to a known species even enable the search for related bacteria in studies as well as in routine diagnostics. MALDI-TOF MS can help to discover and investigate new species and their clinical relevance. It is a powerful tool in the elucidation of the bacterial composition of complex microbiota in culturomics studies. Expert opinion: MALDI-TOF MS has improved the diagnosis of bacterial infections. It also enables knowledge generation for prospective diagnostics. The term ‘hard-to-identify’ might only be rarely attributed to bacteria in the future. Novel applications are being developed, e.g. subspecies differentiation, typing, and antibiotic resistance testing which may further contribute to improved microbial diagnostics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-682
Number of pages16
JournalExpert Review of Molecular Diagnostics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - jan. 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

Cite this