New instrument quickens veterinary diagnostic lab’s services

by | Aug 15, 2016

A lab employee runs a sample through the MALDI-TOF for a quick diagnosis.

A lab employee runs a sample through the MALDI-TOF for a quick diagnosis.

The mission of the N.C. Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory System is to assist veterinarians, the animal industry and state residents in diagnosing and responding to animal disease. Thanks to a new state-of-the-art instrument, the lab system will be able to fulfill that mission more quickly and accurately. The Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization-Time of Flight Mass Spectrometer, or MALDI-TOF, rapidly identifies bacteria and fungi based on the organism’s protein composition.

“The MALDI-TOF helps with our turnaround time and specificity,” said Dr. Jim Trybus, director of the Rollins Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Raleigh, where the new machine is located. Prior to the arrival of the MALDI-TOF, identifying an organism causing an infection could take up to one week or more with traditional culture methods.

“Previously, when we isolated a bacterial pathogen we had to culture the organism in different types of growth media to identify them,” Trybus said. “That process can take three to seven days. This instrument tells us what the organism is in minutes so that we can give our clients those results.”

MALDI-TOF machines have been used in human clinical labs for several years, and now the state-of-the-art technology is being phased in to veterinary diagnostic laboratories.

“We get a spectrum of cases here, and test samples from chickens, horses, dogs and more,” said Trybus. “We’re here to support the animal industries, veterinarians and residents of North Carolina.”