Evaluation of the matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) system in the detection of mastitis pathogens from bovine milk samples

Nusrat A. Jahan, Sandra M. Godden, Erin Royster, Tonya C. Schoenfuss, Connie Gebhart, Jennifer Timmerman, Ryan C. Fink

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13 Scopus citations


MALDI-TOF is a chemistry analytical tool that has recently been deployed in the identification of microorganisms isolated from nosocomial environments. Its use in diagnostics has been extremely advantageous in terms of cost effectiveness, sample preparation easiness, turn-around time and result analysis accessibility. In the dairy industry, where mastitis causes great financial losses, a rapid diagnostic method such as MALDI-TOF could assist in the control and prevention program of mastitis, in addition to the sanitation and safety level of the dairy farms and processing facility. However, the diagnostic strengths and limitations of this test method require further understanding. In the present study, we prospectively compared MALDI-TOF MS to conventional 16S rDNA sequencing method for the identification of pathogens recovered from milk associated with clinical and subclinical bovine mastitis cases. Initially, 810 bacterial isolates were collected from raw milk samples over a period of three months. However, only the isolates (481) having both 16S rDNA sequencing and MALDI-TOF identification were included in the final phase of the study. Among the 481 milk isolates, a total of 26 genera (12 g-postive and 14 g-negative), including 71 different species, were taxonomically charecterized by 16S rDNA at the species level. Comparatively, MALDI-TOF identified 17 genera (9 g-positive and 8 g-negative) and 33 differernt species. Overall, 445 (93%) were putatively identified to the genus level by MALDI-TOF MS and 355 (74%) were identified to the species level, but no reliable identification was obtained for 16 (3.3%), and 20 (4.2%) discordant results were identified. Future studies may help to overcome the limitations of the MALDI database and additional sample preparation steps might help to reduce the number of discordances in identification. In conclusion, our results show that MALDI-TOF MS is a fast and reliable technique which has the potential to replace conventional identification methods for common mastitis pathogens, routinely isolated from raw milk. Thus it's adoption will strengthen the capacity, quality, and possibly the scope of diagnostic services to support the dairy industry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106168
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
College of Veterinary Medicine Hatch Funding, University of Minnesota.The authors wish to acknowledge the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL) and Udder Health Laboratory (LUH) of the University of Minnesota for the technical support during MALDI-TOF and MALDI BioTyper analyses.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • 16S rDNA sequencing
  • Bovine mastitis
  • Dairy
  • Pathogens


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