Zap the crap! Using REIMS to obtain valuable information from animal faeces

Davidson NB, Koch NI, Sarsby J, Jones E, Hurst JL, Beynon RJ. (2019) Rapid identification of species, sex and maturity by mass spectrometric analysis of animal faeces. BMC Biol. 17(1):66. doi: 10.1186/s12915-019-0686-9. [PUBMED] [PDF]

We describe a new approach to the recovery of information from faecal samples, based on the analysis of the molecular signature generated by rapid evaporative ionisation mass spectrometry (REIMS).

Faecal pellets from five different rodent species were analysed by REIMS, and complex mass spectra were acquired rapidly (typically a few seconds per sample). The uninterpreted mass spectra (signatures) were then used to seed linear discriminant analysis and classification models based on random forests. It was possible to classify each species of origin with a high rate of accuracy, whether faeces were from animals maintained under standard laboratory conditions or wild-caught. REIMS signatures were stable to prior storage of the faecal material under a range of different conditions and were not altered rapidly or radically by changes in diet. Further, within species, REIMS signatures could be used to discriminate faeces from adult versus juvenile mice, male versus female mice and those from three different laboratory strains.

REIMS offers a completely novel method for the rapid analysis of faecal samples, extending faecal analysis (previously focused on DNA) to an assessment of phenotype, and has considerable potential as a new tool in the armamentarium of the field biologist.