This spring the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) in College Station invested in new equipment that will improve laboratory efficiency and accuracy.
The bacteriology section is in the first stages of transitioning routine bacterial identification to the Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization-Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer, also called the MALDI-TOF or MALDI. In the drug laboratory, two new state-of-the-art machines are helping chemists find the illusive needle in a haystack-that one drug that could be hiding among the many molecules in samples.
The MALDI identifies bacteria by measuring the charge-to-mass ratios of ionized proteins and comparing the patterns to those in a validated database. While initial culture to obtain isolated bacterial colonies is still required, the MALDI can then identify bacteria in less than an hour.
According to Amy Swinford, DVM, MS, microbiology branch chief, four bacteriologists have been trained on the MALDI technology, including herself. The technology is being used alongside traditional identification methods to compare results.
"We are currently in the verification stage, ensuring the results we get with the MALDI are equal or superior to those obtained with phenotypic or molecular identifications,” says Dr. Swinford. “Once fully incorporated, we also anticipate faster turnaround time. This instrument is revolutionary in that it can identify bacteria from a single colony and doesn't depend on additional incubation steps.”
The equipment requires intensive training and will take several months to fully implement into daily laboratory testing. Though the MALDI will soon become the primary means of bacterial identification, Dr. Swinford says that the bacteriology section will maintain the full complement of identification methods required by a state-of-the-art diagnostic bacteriology laboratory.
The TSQ Endura can quantitate a substance's presence up to the picogram per milliliter.
The drug testing laboratory is now using the Q Exactive Plus (QE+), which is a liquid chromatograph mass spectrometer (LCMS). With increased sensitivity and selectivity, chemists can put up to 324 samples in the machine and test for upwards of 350 drugs.
When the QE+ detects a drug, the new TSQ Endura, also an LCMS, is used to confirm the presence and then measure the amount detected. The TSQ Endura can accurately quantitate in the picogram per milliliter range; this sensitivity is required for TVMDL's work with equine racing samples.
"The QE-plus and the Endura both required a three-day training," said interim assistant section head, Travis Mays. "Accuracy was verified at installation, and we are in the process of validating numerous drugs on both instruments. In addition to the new instruments, the laboratory now has nitrogen generators to supply them. Where we had nitrogen containers before, the generators reduce noise and are more economical."
The TVMDL drug laboratory conducts testing for the Texas Racing Commission as well as drug screening for many livestock shows across the country. With the newest in analytical equipment backing highly skilled diagnosticians, TVMDL can continue to bring timely, accurate results to clients.
For more information on TVMDL diagnostic testing services, visit tvmdl.tamu.edu .