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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2006 Oct;19(4):788-802.

Updated review of blood culture contamination.

Author information

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA. kkh2n@virginia.edu


Blood culture contamination represents an ongoing source of frustration for clinicians and microbiologists alike. Ambiguous culture results often lead to diagnostic uncertainty in clinical management and are associated with increased health care costs due to unnecessary treatment and testing. A variety of strategies have been investigated and employed to decrease contamination rates. In addition, numerous approaches to increase our ability to distinguish between clinically significant bacteremia and contamination have been explored. In recent years, there has been an increase in the application of computer-based tools to support infection control activities as well as provide clinical decision support related to the management of infectious diseases. Finally, new approaches for estimating bacteremia risk which have the potential to decrease unnecessary blood culture utilization have been developed and evaluated. In this review, we provide an overview of blood culture contamination and describe the potential utility of a variety of approaches to improve both detection and prevention. While it is clear that progress is being made, fundamental challenges remain.

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