Rapid Detection of Heterogeneous Vancomycin-Intermediate Staphylococcus aureus Based on Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time-of-Flight: Using a Machine Learning Approach and Unbiased Validation


Heterogeneous vancomycin-intermediate Staphylococcus aureus (hVISA) is an emerging superbug with implicit drug resistance to vancomycin. Detecting hVISA can guide the correct administration of antibiotics. However, hVISA cannot be detected in most clinical microbiology laboratories because the required diagnostic tools are either expensive, time consuming, or labor intensive. By contrast, matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) is a cost-effective and rapid tool that has potential for providing antibiotics resistance information. To analyze complex MALDI-TOF mass spectra, machine learning (ML) algorithms can be used to generate robust hVISA detection models. In this study, MALDI-TOF mass spectra were obtained from 35 hVISA/vancomycin-intermediate S. aureus (VISA) and 90 vancomycin-susceptible S. aureus isolates. The vancomycin susceptibility of the isolates was determined using an Etest and modified population analysis profile–area under the curve. ML algorithms, namely a decision tree, k-nearest neighbors, random forest, and a support vector machine (SVM), were trained and validated using nested cross-validation to provide unbiased validation results. The area under the curve of the models ranged from 0.67 to 0.79, and the SVM-derived model outperformed those of the other algorithms. The peaks at m/z 1132, 2895, 3176, and 6591 were noted as informative peaks for detecting hVISA/VISA. We demonstrated that hVISA/VISA could be detected by analyzing MALDI-TOF mass spectra using ML. Moreover, the results are particularly robust due to a strict validation method. The ML models in this study can provide rapid and accurate reports regarding hVISA/VISA and thus guide the correct administration of antibiotics in treatment of S. aureus infection.

In Frontiers in Microbiology.