Matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry for rapid identification of mold and yeast cultures of Penicillium marneffei

Susanna K.P. Lau, Clare S.K. Lam, Antonio H.Y. Ngan, Wang Ngai Chow, Alan K.L. Wu, Dominic N.C. Tsang, Cindy W.S. Tse, Tak Lun Que, Bone S.F. Tang, Patrick C.Y. Woo

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Penicillium marneffei is the most important thermal dimorphic fungus causing systemic mycosis in HIV-infected and other immunocompromised patients in Southeast Asia. However, laboratory diagnosis of penicilliosis, which relies on microscopic morphology and mycelial-to-yeast conversion, is time-consuming and expertise-dependent, thus delaying diagnosis and treatment. Although matrix -assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) is useful for identification of various medically important fungi, its performance for identification of P. marneffei is less clear. Results: We evaluated the performance of the Bruker MALDI-TOF MS system for identification of mold and yeast cultures of 59 clinical strains and the type strain of P. marneffei using the direct transfer method, with results compared to four phylogenetically closely related species, P. brevi-compactum, P. chrysogenum, Talaromyces aurantiacus and T. stipitatus. Using the Bruker original database combined with BDAL v4.0.0.1 and Filamentous Fungi Library 1.0, MALDI-TOF MS failed to identify the 60 P. marneffei strains grown in mold and yeast phase (identified as P. funiculosum and P. purpurogenum with scores <1.7 respectively). However, when the combined database was expanded with inclusion of spectra from 21 P. marneffei strains in mold and/or yeast phase, all the remaining 39 P. marneffei strains grown in mold or phase were correctly identified to the species level with score >2.0. The MS spectra of P. marneffei exhibited significant difference to those of P. brevi-compactum, P. chrysogenum, T. aurantiacus and T. stipitatus. However, MALDI-TOF MS failed to identify these four fungi to the species level using the combined database with or without spectra from P. marneffei. Conclusions: MALDI-TOF MS is useful for rapid identification of both yeast and mold cultures of P. marneffei and differentiation from related species. However, accurate identification to the species level requires database expansion using P. marneffei strains.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalBMC Microbiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Identification
  • marneffei
  • MS
  • Pencillium
  • Rapid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)

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