Researchers at machineryRapid Evaporative Ionisation Mass Spectrometry (REIMS)
The microbiology team are currently developing a REIMS based system to identify bacteria and fungi. Historically, the diagnosis of microbial infections has relied upon culturing samples and subsequently identifying bacterial or fungal growth using features including biochemical characteristics, sugar utilisation patterns and phenotypic characteristics.  This workflow can take upwards of 1-2 days and in some cases, over a month.  There is therefore a clear need for a technology that can identify and diagnose infections quickly to ensure that patients are given appropriate and timely treatment. 

How it works

Initially the work was based upon biopolar forceps; these were used to draw up cultured material.  After applying an electrosurgical current through the forceps the colony is heated and the resulting vapour transferred to the mass spectrometer for REIMS analysis. Characteristic species specific spectral fingerprints, mainly composed of microbial lipids, are observed. By comparing this to a spectral database it is possible to assign a species classification with high sensitivity and specificity (paper 1 and paper 2). Because of the high throughput nature of clinical microbiology laboratories the technology has subsequently been adapted to provide a simple system capable of performing REIMS analysis on multiple samples with minimal user input. A recent publication describes this novel diagnostic technology and demonstrates its utility for microbial identification.

How patients will benefit

We are currently developing methods aimed at identifying infections directly from samples to ensure patients can be treated promptly and effectively.   The technology is also being applied to a range of other areas including; microbial typing, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, veterinary applications and food, water and environmental testing.