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MALDI-TOF MS Analysis: Inoculation Loops vs Wooden Transfer Sticks?

MALDI analysis stands for matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization and is used in a variety of industries to identify bio-molecules, such as DNA as well as organic molecules, such as polymers. TOF MS stands for time of flight mass spectrometry. MALDI-TOF MS can be used in microbiology, as well as biochemistry and medicine.

In medicine specifically, the technique is used to diagnose certain diseases. For instance, MALDI-TOF can identify a specific membrane protein linked to pancreatic cancer, and it can also pick up on necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious disease that can affect infants. MALDI-TOF is commonly used to detect potentially aggressive diseases because it can analyze samples rapidly. It does not require the same amount of time required to process samples as certain other sampling techniques, such as X-ray crystallography.

Inoculation/Smear Loops & Microstreakers for MALDI-TOF

Inoculation/Smear Loop
Inoculation/Smear Loop

However, the tools with which MALDI-TOF is performed also impact the rate at which results are produced. For many years, lab technicians have relied on metal or plastic inoculation loops, commonly referred to also as smear loops and microstreakers, to collect bacteria for MALDI-TOF testing. While reusing an instrument may seem like it would help you save on operating costs, the process can actually have adverse effects: it’s quite time-consuming and can even compromise your samples.

Consider the fact that traditional inoculation loops must be completely sterile before being used. Using a micro incinerator or Bunsen burner, the person processing the sample must autoclave the inoculation loop for a period of at least 10 seconds prior to sampling. This must be completed every time, which can lead to a long, drawn-out process. Additionally, you must also introduce your environment to an open flame repeatedly, which presents its own set of risks.

The inoculation loop must then be cooled, but in order to prevent contamination, you must use a pure sterilization source such as sterile agar. The instrument should be cooled for at least 15 seconds to cool it completely; otherwise, you could risk compromising the bacteria due to its heat.

In clinical environments where many samples are processed in the course of one day, this procedure can quickly become too time-intensive. Additionally, the risks of human error and potential contamination increase substantially when you continuously reuse the same instrument. Thus, many users have sought disposable solutions to expedite their workflow. Unfortunately, plastic loops can be too costly to dispose of between each sample. For this reason, many lab techs need a cost-effective yet sterile instrument they can perform MALDI-TOF testing with.

Disposable Wooden Applicator Transfer Sticks for MALDI-TOF

Puritan Pointed Wood Applicator Sticks
Puritan Pointed Wood Applicator Sticks

Enter the Puritan Tapered Pointed wooden applicator stick. Featuring pointed tips, these sticks can transfer samples with ease, completely eliminating the need for sterilization in between processing. They’re also affordable enough to be disposed of without impacting your bottom line. And in fact, because of the time savings achieved through this approach, using disposable wooden applicator sticks to perform MALDI-TOF testing typically winds up being the more economical option in the long run. You can choose from Sterile or non-sterile applicators for transfer to MALDI racks for analysis.

Harmony has a broad range of wooden applicators available online, including sterile tapered pointed wooden applicator sticks. If you need any assistance with your order, simply reach out to one of our product specialists for help.