The Fight against Superbugs

By Kalorama Information, Special for  USDR

The concept of mass spectrometry, or breaking up samples into tiny particles and then measuring how they form and move, was once best left to the research lab. A physics professor might employ it to identify different types of carbon. Not so anymore. According to a new report, the instruments have been re-engineered by a host of companies for diagnosis of patients at risk for severe infections. There’s over a billion-dollar market for mass spectrometry, or MS, according to biotechnology market research firm Kalorama Information’s latest report, Mass Spectrometry in Clinical Applications, with growth in the market coming from these new  uses.

Mass Spectrometry in Clinical Applications can be found at:

Developed in the 1940’s and enhanced with lasers forty years later, MS systems have been innovated to where they are usable for protein analysis, using complicated histograms of the intensity of charges and mass ratios to definitely ID a  substance.

“You can’t fool a mass spectrometer, that would be the simple way to explain it, because the mass to charge ratio is tell-tale for what the sample is,” said Bruce Carlson, Publisher of Kalorama Information. “For superbugs that’s important. The systems are specific and accurate in identifying the exact  microorganism.”

They are also fast, Carlson says. In many case, it takes just a few minutes from sample to result, so when identifying infection, MS is increasingly a useful  instrument.

Just as one example, Nocardia are deadly bacteria that can infect patients in wounds or through their lungs if they breathe in dust that is contaminated or if dirt enters the wound. It’s not a common disease, but more common for chronic lung disease patients or for those with a weakened immune system. Marketed mass spectrometry products can be used to detect the bacteria. Superbug and more common infection detection applications build on what mass spectrometry is being used for now: therapeutic drug monitoring (including immunosuppressants, pain management drugs, and many others), metabolite testing, steroid hormone, vitamins (including vitamin D), newborn screening, and others. These are applications where the increased sensitivity and specificity of mass spectrometry offers significant benefits compared to traditional  immunoassays.

“When you hear about athletes being tested for steroids and other drugs, that is often a mass spectrometer that is being used because of the inconvertible result,” Carlson said.  “But when the problem is not certainty for a legal or administrative decision but for a compromised patient’s health that same need for a definite answer is  there.”

Several companies offer MS technology for clinical applications, according to Kalorama. Bruker’s MALDI Biotyper systems provide high-speed, high-confidence identification and taxonomical classification of bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. Classification and identification are based on proteomic fingerprinting using high-throughput MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry. The MALDI Biotyper CA System is a qualitative in vitro diagnostic device indicated for use in conjunction with other clinical and laboratory findings to aid the diagnosis of bacterial and yeast infections. Danaher’s AB SCIEX offers in Europe and other countries, among many tests, a 25-OH-Vitamin D3/D2 in Serum/Plasma IVD Assay. The test can be useful in diagnosis to detect rickets in children and bone weakness in adults. Biomerieux’s VITEK MS can identify yeasts associated with skin infections, pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections. These companies, as well as Agilent, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Waters make mass spectrometry systems and compete in this growing market. Many other companies have started to develop platforms and tests that could be reviewed and approved by regulatory agencies such as the FDA, and then sold to clinical  laboratories.

Kalorama’s report Mass Spectrometry in Clinical Applications describes all clinical products on the market and estimates the market for both clinical and research mass spectrometry applications across world  regions.

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About Kalorama  Information

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