New laboratory method uses mass spectrometry to rapidly detect staph infections

January 12, 2012, Georgia Institute of Technology Research News

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have developed a new laboratory test that can rapidly identify the bacterium responsible for staph infections. This new test takes advantage of unique isotopic labeling combined with specific bacteriophage amplification to rapidly identify Staphylococcus aureus.

Quickly and accurately detecting infections caused by S. aureus is critical because the pathogenic bacterium causes a of infections, ranging from acute to chronic disease, which need to be treated in a prompt manner with the correct antibiotic.

The test uses mass spectrometry to quantify the number of S. aureus in a large number of samples in just a few hours, compared to a day or two for culturing techniques typically used to detect this bacterium.

"Our method for detecting staph infections using mass spectrometry will be valuable in a variety of situations, but will be crucial when a large number of people need to be tested very quickly, which will ultimately improve treatment," said Facundo Fernández, an associate professor in the Georgia Tech School of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Details of the new staph infection detection method were published in the January issue of the journal Molecular and Cellular Proteomics. Partial funding for this research was provided by 3M and the CDC/Georgia Tech seed award program.

Fernández together with Carrie Pierce, Jon Rees and John Barr from the CDC's Division of Laboratory Sciences created this test.

"The simplicity of sample preparation, the low cost of required reagents and the increased availability of mass spectrometers in clinical laboratories make this new method a cost-effective way to rapidly and effectively detect staph infections, which must be treated quickly to prevent spread of the disease," explained Pierce, a research chemist at the who also worked on the project as a graduate student at Georgia Tech.

To run their test, the researchers first inject a known amount of bacteriophage labeled with nitrogen-15 into a sample. The phages -- which are viruses that infect bacteria -- infect only live S. aureus cells, which then multiply and amplify the phage signal. Following a two-hour incubation, the researchers break up proteins from the phage shell into component peptides using a trypsin digest technique.

Then they analyze the sample using liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometric detection. By detecting peptides from the protein shell of the phage, the researchers can measure the concentration of S. aureus in the sample.

"The strength of this technique is coupling a well-characterized method for identifying bacteria with a modern detection device, such as a mass spectrometer," said Barr, biological mass spectrometry lead in the CDC's Division of Laboratory Sciences. "By labeling input phage with heavy nitrogen isotopes, we were able to use to effectively distinguish between the parent and progeny phage, thus enhancing the selectivity of the method."

This prototype mass spectrometry-based technique has been optimized to detect low concentrations of bacteria that should allow clinicians to diagnose without the need for a significant culture period. Coupled with standard laboratory robotics, the test will reduce manual labor and subjective interpretation of results inherent in traditional techniques.

"An exciting aspect of this phage method is that with small modifications to the procedures, resistance and susceptibility to a number of different antibiotics can be determined in addition to bacterial identification," said Rees. "This additional piece of information may be the key to wide acceptance of the method."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Forces from fluid in the developing lung play an essential role in organ development

January 23, 2018
It is a marvel of nature: during gestation, multiple tissue types cooperate in building the elegantly functional structures of organs, from the brain's folds to the heart's multiple chambers. A recent study by Princeton researchers ...

Anemia discovery offers new targets to treat fatigue in millions

January 22, 2018
A new discovery from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has revealed an unknown clockwork mechanism within the body that controls the creation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The finding sheds light on iron-restricted ...

More surprises about blood development—and a possible lead for making lymphocytes

January 22, 2018
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have long been regarded as the granddaddy of all blood cells. After we are born, these multipotent cells give rise to all our cell lineages: lymphoid, myeloid and erythroid cells. Hematologists ...

How metal scaffolds enhance the bone healing process

January 22, 2018
A new study shows how mechanically optimized constructs known as titanium-mesh scaffolds can optimize bone regeneration. The induction of bone regeneration is of importance when treating large bone defects. As demonstrated ...

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.