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© 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. Bloodstream infections are a significant source of mortality and morbidity. Patient outcomes are improved by rapid identification of the causative pathogen and administration of appropriate antimicrobial therapy. Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry has recently emerged as an alternative to microbiological identification. It is important to establish whether the costs of MALDI-TOF are justified by more timely identification and appropriate therapy, reduced length of stay and reduced hospital costs. We undertook a systematic review of the literature comparing MALDI-TOF and routine methods for the identification of the aetiological agent in patients with known or suspected bloodstream infection. The primary outcome of the review was the ‘time to identify’ organisms. Information on related measures such as ‘time to appropriate antimicrobial treatment’ and downstream hospital cost was also collected where reported. Ten of 775 articles identified met the inclusion criteria. All included studies were observational. MALDI-TOF identification was at least 24 h faster than routine methods in most circumstances. MADLI-TOF was associated with a reduction in downstream hospital costs and length of stay in studies reporting these outcomes. The observational studies reviewed provide evidence of potentially substantial time savings of MALDI-TOF in pathogen identification and instigation of appropriate therapy, which may also reduce hospital stay. Due to the small number of studies, all at relatively high risk of bias, this cannot be considered as definitive evidence of the impact of MALDI-TOF. More and better evidence, including impact on patient health and cost-effectiveness, is required.

Original publication




Journal article


European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

Publication Date





863 - 876