Matrix-Assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry: A fundamental shift in the routine practice of clinical microbiology

Andrew E. Clark, Erin J. Kaleta, Amit Arora, Donna M. Wolk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

606 Scopus citations


Within the past decade, clinical microbiology laboratories experienced revolutionary changes in the way in which microorganisms are identified, moving away from slow, traditional microbial identification algorithms toward rapid molecular methods and mass spectrometry (MS). Historically, MS was clinically utilized as a high-complexity method adapted for protein-centered analysis of samples in chemistry and hematology laboratories. Today, matrix- assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight (MALDITOF) MS is adapted for use in microbiology laboratories, where it serves as a paradigm-shifting, rapid, and robust method for accurate microbial identification. Multiple instrument platforms, marketed by well-established manufacturers, are beginning to displace automated phenotypic identification instruments and in some cases genetic sequence-based identification practices. This review summarizes the current position of MALDI-TOF MS in clinical research and in diagnostic clinical microbiology laboratories and serves as a primer to examine the "nuts and bolts" of MALDI-TOF MS, highlighting research associated with sample preparation, spectral analysis, and accuracy. Currently available MALDI-TOF MS hardware and software platforms that support the use of MALDI-TOF with direct and precultured specimens and integration of the technology into the laboratory workflow are also discussed. Finally, this review closes with a prospective view of the future of MALDI-TOF MS in the clinical microbiology laboratory to accelerate diagnosis and microbial identification to improve patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)547-603
Number of pages57
JournalClinical Microbiology Reviews
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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