Identification and subtyping of clinically relevant human and ruminant mycoplasmas by use of matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry.
Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) recently emerged as a technology for the identification of bacteria. In this study, we aimed to evaluate its applicability to human and ruminant mycoplasmal identification, which can be demanding and time-consuming when using phenotypic or molecular methods. In addition, MALDI-TOF MS was tested as a subtyping tool for certain species. A total of 29 main spectra (MSP) from 10 human and 13 ruminant mycoplasma (sub)species were included in a mycoplasma MSP database to complete the Bruker MALDI Biotyper database. After broth culture and protein extraction, MALDI-TOF MS was applied for the identification of 119 human and 143 ruminant clinical isolates that were previously identified by antigenic or molecular methods and for subcultures of 73 ruminant clinical specimens that potentially contained several mycoplasma species. MALDI-TOF MS resulted in accurate (sub)species-level identification with a score of ≥1.700 for 96% (251/262) of the isolates. The phylogenetically closest (sub)species were unequivocally distinguished. Although mixtures of the strains were reliably detected up to a certain cellular ratio, only the predominant species was identified from the cultures of polymicrobial clinical specimens. For typing purposes, MALDI-TOF MS proved to cluster Mycoplasma bovis and Mycoplasma agalactiae isolates by their year of isolation and genome profiles, respectively, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae isolates by their adhesin P1 type. In conclusion, MALDI-TOF MS is a rapid, reliable, and cost-effective method for the routine identification of high-density growing mycoplasmal species and shows promising prospects for its capacity for strain typing.