Bacterial samples are placed on a steel target plate, seen here, and loaded into the MALDI-TOF for analysis.
The UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital recently acquired a highly-advanced piece of diagnostic equipment that will reduce the time for identification of bacterial and fungal organisms after they have been grown in culture from 2-4 days down to less than one hour. The matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometer is being embraced throughout the healthcare community as the most advanced diagnostic tool for rapid identification of organisms.
MALDI-TOF works by generating a protein mass profile of an unknown organism that serves as a “fingerprint” for that particular organism. After a “fingerprint” is generated by the MALDI-TOF, it is compared to a database containing libraries of thousands of profiles. It then quickly identifies the unknown organism based on its closest match in the library. New libraries can be added to the current database and shared with other veterinary diagnostic laboratories and researchers. Increased library coverage will increase the range of organisms that can be identified accurately and quickly.
MALDI-TOF has proven to be a fast and cost-effective method in comparison to conventional microbiological diagnostics. Currently, only four other veterinary schools (Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Cornell) employ the MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry technology in their diagnostic laboratories.