Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2021 Jan 23:1-11. doi: 10.1007/s10096-020-04132-y. Online ahead of print.
Rapid and reliable pathogen identification is compulsory to confirm ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) in order to initiate appropriate antibiotic treatment. In the present proof of concept, the effectiveness of rapid microorganism identification with a targeted bottom-up proteomics approach was investigated in endotracheal aspirate (ETA) samples of VAP patients. To do so, a prototype selected-reaction monitoring (SRM)-based assay was developed on a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer tracking proteotypic peptide surrogates of bacterial proteomes. Through the concurrent monitoring of 97 species-specific peptides, this preliminary assay was dimensioned to characterize the occurrence of six most frequent bacterial species responsible for over more than 65% of VAP. Assay performance was subsequently evaluated by analyzing early and regular 37 ETA samples collected from 15 patients. Twenty-five samples were above the significant threshold of 105 CFU/mL and five samples showed mixed infections (both pathogens ≥ 105 CFU/mL). The targeted proteomics assay showed 100% specificity for Acinetobacter baumannii, Escherichia coli, Haemophilus influenzae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. No false bacterial identification was reported and no interference was detected arising from the commensal flora. The overall species identification sensitivity was 19/25 (76%) and was higher at the patient level (84.6%). This successful proof of concept provides a rational to broaden the panel of bacteria for further clinical evaluation.