BACKGROUND: Cutaneous leishmaniasis is caused by several Leishmania species that are associated with variable outcomes before and after therapy. Optimal treatment decision is based on an accurate identification of the infecting species but current methods to type Leishmania isolates are relatively complex and/or slow. Therefore, the initial treatment decision is generally presumptive, the infecting species being suspected on epidemiological and clinical grounds. A simple method to type cultured isolates would facilitate disease management.
METHODOLOGY: We analyzed MALDI-TOF spectra of promastigote pellets from 46 strains cultured in monophasic medium, including 20 short-term cultured isolates from French travelers (19 with CL, 1 with VL). As per routine procedure, clinical isolates were analyzed in parallel with Multilocus Sequence Typing (MLST) at the National Reference Center for Leishmania.
PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Automatic dendrogram analysis generated a classification of isolates consistent with reference determination of species based on MLST or hsp70 sequencing. A minute analysis of spectra based on a very simple, database-independent analysis of spectra based on the algorithm showed that the mutually exclusive presence of two pairs of peaks discriminated isolates considered by reference methods to belong either to the Viannia or Leishmania subgenus, and that within each subgenus presence or absence of a few peaks allowed discrimination to species complexes level.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Analysis of cultured Leishmania isolates using mass spectrometry allows a rapid and simple classification to the species complex level consistent with reference methods, a potentially useful method to guide treatment decision in patients with cutaneous leishmaniasis.