Pathogen profiling: Rapid molecular characterization of Staphylococcus aureus by PCR/electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry and correlation with phenotype

Donna Wolk, Lawrence B. Blyn, Thomas A. Hall, Rangarajan Sampath, Raymond Ranken, Cristina Ivy, Rachael Melton, Heather Matthews, Neill White, Feng Li, Vanessa Harpin, David J. Ecker, Brandi Limbago, Linda K. McDougal, Vicki H. Wysocki, Mian Cai, Karen C. Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

50 Scopus citations


There are few diagnostic methods that readily distinguish among community-acquired methicillin (meticillin)-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains, now frequently transmitted within hospitals. We describe a rapid and high-throughput method for bacterial profiling of staphylococcal isolates. The method couples PCR to electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) and is performed on a platform suitable for use in a diagnostic laboratory. This profiling technology produces a high-resolution genetic signature indicative of the presence of specific genetic elements that represent distinctive phenotypic features. The PCR/ESI-MS signature accurately identified genotypic determinants consistent with phenotypic traits in well-characterized reference and clinical isolates of S. aureus. Molecular identification of the antibiotic resistance genes correlated strongly with phenotypic in vitro resistance. The identification of toxin genes correlated with independent PCR analyses for the toxin genes. Finally, isolates were correctly classified into genotypic groups that correlated with genetic clonal complexes, repetitive-element-based PCR patterns, or pulsed-field gel electrophoresis types. The high-throughput PCR/ESI-MS assay should improve clinical management of staphylococcal infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3129-3137
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)

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