Mass spectrometry-based diagnostics of pathogenic dermatophytes

According to an official estimate, about 8 Mio. people in Germany alone suffer from mycosis of the skin and nail. Due to the surprisingly high number of about 80 to 100 different relevant fungal pathogens, the quest for an effective therapy is of paramount interest, as several of the different species of fungus display varying sensitivities towards the diverse antimycotics available. Thus, preceding the prescription of a locally or systemically acting drug, the correct diagnosis with accompanying species identification is of particular importance. Unfortunately, current diagnostic methods often reveal their limitations, with culturing of the pathogen representing a time-consuming and error-prone procedure, whereas histological findings do not permit the determination of the envolved species.

The aim of this project is the development and implementation of a rapid and reliable method for species determination of dermatopathogenic fungi by mass spectrometry. For this, protein and peptide spectra will be aquired by Intact Protein Profiling (IPP) and Shotgun Mass Mapping (SMM) for all relevant dermatophytes, using material from cultured organisms. Species-specific, unique peptides can be obtained by comparison of the respective spectra.

Due to its speed, its high sensitivity and specificity as well as its potential for automatization, the method of mass spectrometry-based diagnostics presented here could mature into a cost-efficient, high-throughput method of interest for other diagnostic challenges in the near future.