Identification of clinical isolates of Aspergillus, including cryptic species, by matrix assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS).

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An expanded library of matrix assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) has been constructed using the spectra generated from 42 clinical isolates and 11 reference strains, including 23 different species from 8 sections (16 cryptic plus 7 noncryptic species). Out of a total of 379 strains of Aspergillus isolated from clinical samples, 179 strains were selected to be identified by sequencing of beta-tubulin or calmodulin genes. Protein spectra of 53 strains, cultured in liquid medium, were used to construct an in-house reference database in the MALDI-TOF MS. One hundred ninety strains (179 clinical isolates previously identified by sequencing and the 11 reference strains), cultured on solid medium, were blindy analyzed by the MALDI-TOF MS technology to validate the generated in-house reference database. A 100% correlation was obtained with both identification methods, gene sequencing and MALDI-TOF MS, and no discordant identification was obtained. The HUVR database provided species level (score of ≥2.0) identification in 165 isolates (86.84%) and for the remaining 25 (13.16%) a genus level identification (score between 1.7 and 2.0) was obtained. The routine MALDI-TOF MS analysis with the new database, was then challenged with 200 Aspergillus clinical isolates grown on solid medium in a prospective evaluation. A species identification was obtained in 191 strains (95.5%), and only nine strains (4.5%) could not be identified at the species level. Among the 200 strains, A. tubingensis was the only cryptic species identified. We demonstrated the feasibility and usefulness of the new HUVR database in MALDI-TOF MS by the use of a standardized procedure for the identification of Aspergillus clinical isolates, including cryptic species, grown either on solid or liquid media.
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