Healthcare Turns to Mass Spectrometry to Combat Infectious Disease

Healthcare Turns to Mass Spectrometry to Combat Infectious Disease

Mass spectrometry was first developed several decades ago and cofined deep in research laboratories. Now it’s becoming as important a testing tool and other in vitro diagnostic analyzers. here’s over a billion-dollar market for mass spectrometry, according to Kalorama Information’s latest report, Mass Spectrometry in Clinical Applications, and growth in that market is coming from the new uses for MS in clinical work.

The advantage of mass spectrometry systems is that they are incredibly specific and accurate. This increased accuracy is important for measurement of analytes such as pain management drugs, immunosuppressants, antifungals, steroid hormones, and other small molecule analytes.

Laboratory developed tests have been available for years for applications such as 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. Mass spectrometry applications include proteomics, genomics, and a range of small molecule applications such as drug testing (including therapeutic drug monitoring of important drugs such as immunosuppressants and others), vitamin D testing, neonatal testing, and others. This introduction of mass spectrometry testing for microbial identification is an example where mass spectrometry technology has already been disruptive. As the applications of mass spectrometry continue to expand, mass spectrometry may prove to be a disruptive technology in other areas of the clinical lab. The addition of new applications (markets) such as microbial identification, oncology, and others is fuelling growth of this market

The history of mass spectrometry can be traced back to the early20th century, when the technology was first being developed. The first scientists to use mass spectrometry were primarily physicists, who used the technology to measure the mass atoms. Mass spectrometry was used to demonstrate the existence of isotopes. Many advances took place over the next several decades including development of the first time-of-flight (TOF) mass analyser in the 1940s, Quadrupole /time-of-flight mass analyzers, and also matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization (MALDI), were developed in the 1980s. MALDI imaging and several other new technologies were developed in the 1990s. Mass spectrometry has continued to progress in this century. These are just a few of the many advances in mass spectrometry that have taken place over the last hundred years. An important early example has been the development and introduction of MALDI-TOF mass spectrometers for the bacterial identification. Mass spectrometry can separate and identify molecules in complex mixtures based on the mass to charge ratio of ions (charged particles).

For most of this time, mass spectrometry has been primarily a research tool – although an important research tool at that. However, mass spectrometry has been used to for several years in clinical labs for certain indications. Some clinical laboratories have been using mass spectrometry based tests for many years. These included 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 all applications where the sensitivity and specificity of mass spectrometry provides benefits in clinical diagnostics. However, due to the lack of in vitro diagnostic reagents, clinical labs have had to develop their own laboratory developed tests (LDTs).

Companies such as Agilent, Bruker, SCIEX, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Water 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.