Everyone has been there. You start to feel a little sick, and you wonder if you picked up a bug somewhere. Now especially, it is important to know what you have and whether or not you could spread it to other people.

A new method of microbial testing called MALDI-TOF has been gaining traction because of its potential advantages compared to traditional methods.

But how does MALDI-TOF work? Keep reading to find out all about what it is and some of its applications.


The acronym MALDI-TOF stands for matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight. But there’s still a lot to unpack here.

Simply put, MALDI-TOF is a method of preparing something for chemical analysis in something like a mass spectrometer. Matrix-assisted means the sample stays within a matrix of some other material to keep it in place.

Laser refers to the use of a laser in the process. A pulsed laser gives energy to the sample and causes desorption and ionization of the sample as well as the matrix material.

Desorption means that the material is removed from the surface of the metal plate that it was sitting on. Ionization means the sample gains a net electric charge, whether it is positive or negative.

This step is crucial because the mass spectrometer needs the sample to have a non-zero charge in order to work.

Time of flight refers to how exactly materials are differentiated by the mass spectrometer. You can use the amount of time a sample takes to get through the device and use that to determine its velocity.

Since velocity depends on the ratio of mass to charge, you can then determine exactly what material is in the sample.

Applications of MALDI-TOF

One of the biggest applications of this method is in MALDI-TOF microbial ID testing. From chemical manufacturers to pharmaceutical companies and even in the beer industry, it is important to know exactly what is in your product.

One major advantage when it comes to maldi tof vs dna sequencing, for example, is that MALDI-TOF can give more information about the microbes being tested.

While DNA sequencing tells you what species you’re dealing with, MALDI-TOF can provide information about what kind of drugs the microbes can resist. This is important to stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Some other common applications of this method are in the fields of biochemistry and organic chemistry research. MALDI-TOF can identify certain polymers like proteins or macromolecules like lipids.

It can characterize changes in these molecules during and after chemical or biological reactions. It can also identify some types of parasites that may be contaminating a product.

MALDI-TOF has even been used to identify certain markers for pancreatic cancer.

Is MALDI-TOF Right for You?

Now that you know what MALDI-TOF stands for and how it can be used, feel free to do some more research on your own to find out if it is right for you.

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