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J Infect Chemother. 2010 Oct;16(5):301-16. doi: 10.1007/s10156-010-0069-1. Epub 2010 May 21.

Blood cultures: key elements for best practices and future directions.

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  • 1Division of Microbiology, Department of Pathology, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, 4940 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


Bloodstream infections (BSI) cause significant morbidity and mortality among populations worldwide. Blood cultures (BCs) are regarded as the "gold standard" for diagnosis of bacteremia and are among the most important functions of the clinical microbiology laboratory. Significant changes in the methods and techniques of obtaining BCs have occurred since the first inception of BCs into clinical practice. Aside from significant improvements of established, conventional technology, new assays for diagnosis of bacteremia and fungemia, particularly those involving molecular techniques, are now available. BCs must be collected under sterile conditions and guidelines for appropriate collection, processing, and results reporting of BCs have been established. This review provides comprehensive information on optimal BC practices for laboratories, utilizing traditional approaches and emerging technology. As laboratories and clinicians must appreciate the key factors affecting the use of these techniques, improved communication between laboratory personnel and clinicians regarding such elements as duration of incubation, workup of contaminants and critical action value reporting will greatly improve the diagnostic approach to BSI.

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