Improved discrimination of Bacillus anthracis from Closely Related Species in the Bacillus cereus Sensu Lato Group based on MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry
Discrimination of highly pathogenic bacteria, such as Bacillus anthracis, from closely related species based on molecular biological methods is challenging. We applied Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption/Ionization-Time of Flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) to a collection of B. anthracis strains and close relatives in order to significantly improve the statistical confidence of identification results for this group of bacteria. Protein mass spectra of 189 verified and diverse Bacillus strains of the Bacillus cereus sensu lato group were generated using MALDI-TOF MS and subsequently analyzed with supervised and unsupervised statistical methods, such as shrinkage discriminant analysis (SDA) and principle component analysis (PCA). We aimed at identifying specific biomarkers in the protein spectra of B. anthracis not present in closely related Bacillus spp. We could identify 7, 10, 18, and 14 B. anthracis specific biomarker candidates that were absent in B. cereus, B. mycoides, B. thuringiensis, or B. weihenstephanensis strains, respectively. Main spectra (MSP) of a defined collection of Bacillus strains were compiled using the Bruker Biotyper Software and added to an in-house reference library. Re-evaluation of this library with 15 hitherto untested strains of B. anthracis and B. cereus yielded improved score values. The B. anthracis strains were identified with score values between 2.33 and 2.55 using the in-house database, while the same strains were identified with scores between 1.94 and 2.37 using the commercial database and no false-positive identifications occurred using the in-house database.
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