Comparative analysis of storage conditions and homogenization methods for tick and flea species for identification by MALDI-TOF MS


  • Nebbak A.
  • El Hamzaoui B.
  • Berenger J. -M.
  • Bitam I.
  • Raoult Didier
  • Almeras L.
  • Parola P.

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Ticks and fleas are vectors for numerous human and animal pathogens. Controlling them, which is important in combating such diseases, requires accurate identification, to distinguish between vector and non-vector species. Recently, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) was applied to the rapid identification of arthropods. The growth of this promising tool, however, requires guidelines to be established. To this end, standardization protocols were applied to species of Rhipicephalus sanguineus (Ixodida: Ixodidae) Latreille and Ctenocephalides felis felis (Siphonaptera: Pulicidae) Bouche, including the automation of sample homogenization using two homogenizer devices, and varied sample preservation modes for a period of 1-6months. The MS spectra were then compared with those obtained from manual pestle grinding, the standard homogenization method. Both automated methods generated intense, reproducible MS spectra from fresh specimens. Frozen storage methods appeared to represent the best preservation mode, for up to 6months, while storage in ethanol is also possible, with some caveats for tick specimens. Carnoy's buffer, however, was shown to be less compatible with MS analysis for the purpose of identifying ticks or fleas. These standard protocols for MALDI-TOF MS arthropod identification should be complemented by additional MS spectrum quality controls, to generalize their use in monitoring arthropods of medical interest.

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