Using MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry to identify ticks collected on domestic and wild animals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Steve Ngoy, Adama Zan Diarra, Anne Laudisoit, Guy Crispin Gembu, Erik Verheyen, Onésime Mubenga, Sylvestre Gambalemoke Mbalitini, Pascal Baelo, Maureen Laroche, Philippe Parola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) has recently emerged as an alternative to morphological and molecular tools to identify tick species. In this study, we set out to evaluate and confirm the ability of MALDI-TOF MS to identify different species of ticks collected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and preserved in 70% ethanol. A total of 575 ticks, of which 530 were collected from domestic pigs and 45 from wild animals, were subjected to MALDI-TOF MS analysis to evaluate the intraspecies reproducibility and interspecies specificity of MS profiles obtained from the different species. Morphologically, the ticks belonged to seven different species, namely Rhipicephalus complanatus, Rhipicephalus congolensis, Haemaphysalis muhsamae, Ixodes cumulatimpunctatus, Amblyomma exornatum, Amblyomma compressum and an unidentified Rhipicephalus sp. A total of 535/575 (93%) of the spectra obtained were of good enough quality to be used for our analyses. Our home-made MALDI-TOF MS arthropod database was upgraded with spectra obtained from between one and five randomly selected specimens per species. For these reference specimens, molecular identification of the ticks was also made using 16S, 12S rDNA genes and the Cox1 mtDNA gene sequencing. The remaining good quality spectra were then queried against the upgraded MALDI-TOF MS database, showing that 100% were in agreement with the morphological identification, with logarithmic score values (LSVs) between 1.813 and 2.51. The consistency between our morphological, molecular and MALDI-TOF MS identification confirms the capability and precision of MALDI-TOF MS for tick identification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-657
Number of pages21
JournalExperimental and Applied Acarology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Arthropod identification
  • DR Congo
  • Taxonomy
  • Ticks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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