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Rapid identification of bacteria in blood cultures by mass-spectrometric analysis of volatiles
  1. Claudia Ballabio1,
  2. Simone Cristoni2,
  3. Giovanni Puccio3,
  4. Malcolm Kohler4,
  5. Maria Roberta Sala1,
  6. Paolo Brambilla1,5,
  7. Pablo Martinez-Lozano Sinues6,*
  1. 1 Clinical Pathology Department, Desio Hospital, Desio, Italy
  2. 2 ISB Ion Source & Biotechnologies, Milan, Italy
  3. 3 Emmanuele Scientific Research Association, Palermo, Italy
  4. 4 Pulmonary Division, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  5. 5 Experimental Medicine Department, School of Medicine, University of Milano-Bicocca, Monza, Italy
  6. 6 National Research Council-Institute for Biomedical Technologies, Segrate, Italy
  7. * Current address: Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pablo Martinez-Lozano Sinues, ETH Zurich, Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, Vladimir-Prelog-Weg 3, Zurich CH-8093, Switzerland; pablo.mlsinues{at}

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Blood cultures are routine tests to determine whether micro-organisms have entered the patient's bloodstream. Automated systems, based on the detection of CO2 increase in the culture media, have considerably improved the screening efficiency for the detection of bacteria.1 However, further identification of bacteria still requires time-consuming culturing procedures.

It has been suggested that along with CO2, bacterial cultures emit characteristic volatile organic compounds that may be valuable for characterisation.2 Recently, a number of technological developments have allowed the detection of trace gases with minimal or no sample preconcentration steps.3–5 In the current study, we investigated whether the volatiles emitted from bacterial cultures (mimicking routine clinical blood cultures) could be distinguished from each other in a rapid fashion by secondary electrospray ionisation-mass spectrometry (SESI-MS).6 ,7


103 colony forming units were inoculated in 42 aerobic bottles: 15 with Staphylococcus aureus ATCC 29213 strain, 15 with Escherichia coli ATCC 25922 and 12 Streptococcus pneumoniae ATCC 49619. They were incubated in the automatic instrument BacT/ALERT 3D (Biomerieux Clinical Diagnostic, France). The system automatically detects the positivity of the sample when the amount of CO2 produced by bacterial growth reaches a given threshold. …

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  • Contributors SC, PB and PM-LS designed the study. CB, SC, MRS and PM-LS conducted the experiments. PM-LS analysed the data. SC, GP, MK, MRS, PB and PM-LS wrote the manuscript.

  • Funding This research was supported by a Marie Curie Grant (PMLS) within the 7th European Community Framework Programme (PIEF-GA-2008-220511).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.