Identification of phlebotomine sand flies using one MALDI-TOF MS reference database and two mass spectrometer systems

Alexander Mathis, Jérôme Depaquit, Vit Dvořák, Holly Tuten, Anne Laure Bañuls, Petr Halada, Sonia Zapata, Véronique Lehrter, Kristýna Hlavačková, Jorian Prudhomme, Petr Volf, Denis Sereno, Christian Kaufmann, Valentin Pflüger, Francis Schaffner

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Background: Rapid, accurate and high-throughput identification of vector arthropods is of paramount importance in surveillance programmes that are becoming more common due to the changing geographic occurrence and extent of many arthropod-borne diseases. Protein profiling by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry fulfils these requirements for identification, and reference databases have recently been established for several vector taxa, mostly with specimens from laboratory colonies. Methods: We established and validated a reference database containing 20 phlebotomine sand fly (Diptera: Psychodidae, Phlebotominae) species by using specimens from colonies or field-collections that had been stored for various periods of time. Results: Identical biomarker mass patterns ('superspectra') were obtained with colony- or field-derived specimens of the same species. In the validation study, high quality spectra (i.e. more than 30 evaluable masses) were obtained with all fresh insects from colonies, and with 55/59 insects deep-frozen (liquid nitrogen/-80 °C) for up to 25 years. In contrast, only 36/52 specimens stored in ethanol could be identified. This resulted in an overall sensitivity of 87 % (140/161); specificity was 100 %. Duration of storage impaired data counts in the high mass range, and thus cluster analyses of closely related specimens might reflect their storage conditions rather than phenotypic distinctness. A major drawback of MALDI-TOF MS is the restricted availability of in-house databases and the fact that mass spectrometers from 2 companies (Bruker, Shimadzu) are widely being used. We have analysed fingerprints of phlebotomine sand flies obtained by automatic routine procedure on a Bruker instrument by using our database and the software established on a Shimadzu system. The sensitivity with 312 specimens from 8 sand fly species from laboratory colonies when evaluating only high quality spectra was 98.3 %; the specificity was 100 %. The corresponding diagnostic values with 55 field-collected specimens from 4 species were 94.7 % and 97.4 %, respectively. Conclusions: A centralized high-quality database (created by expert taxonomists and experienced users of mass spectrometers) that is easily amenable to customer-oriented identification services is a highly desirable resource. As shown in the present work, spectra obtained from different specimens with different instruments can be analysed using a centralized database, which should be available in the near future via an online platform in a cost-efficient manner.

Idioma originalInglés
Número de artículo266
PublicaciónParasites and Vectors
EstadoPublicada - 10 may. 2015


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