Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) was used in a blind study to successfully differentiate bacterial pathogens, both species and strain. The pathogens used for the study were chosen and prepared by one set of researchers. The LIBS data were collected and analyzed by another set of researchers. The latter researchers had no knowledge of the sample identities other than that (1) the first five of fifteen samples were unique (not replicates) and (2) the remaining ten samples consisted of two replicates of each of the first five samples. Using only chemometric analysis of the LIBS data, the ten replicate bacterial samples were successfully matched to each of the first five samples. The results of this blind study show it is possible to differentiate the bacterial pathogens <i>Escherichia coli</i>, three clonal methicillin-resistant <i>Staphylococcus aureus</i> (MRSA) strains, and one unrelated MRSA strain using LIBS. This is an important finding because it demonstrates that LIBS can be used to determine bacterial pathogen species within a defined sample set and can be used to differentiate between clonal relationships among strains of a single multiple-antibiotic-resistant bacterial species. Such a capability is important for the development of LIBS instruments for use in medical, water, and food safety applications.

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