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J Med Microbiol. 2011 Apr;60(Pt 4):446-53. doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.020651-0. Epub 2010 Dec 16.

Time to positivity of neonatal blood cultures: fast and furious?

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, Division of Immunology, Antwerp University Hospital and Faculty of Medicine, Antwerp University, B-2650 Edegem, Belgium.


The aim of this study was to determine the time to positivity (TTP) of neonatal blood cultures, to investigate differences between early onset versus late-onset sepsis, and non-proven versus proven sepsis, and to examine differences in TTP by organism type using a retrospective observational study at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Antwerp University Hospital, Belgium. The subjects were 1828 neonates with suspected sepsis who were treated with antimicrobials for at least 3 days. The TTP was recorded for all episodes of suspected sepsis in an approximately 6.5 year period. A total of 2916 blood cultures were collected, of which 437 (15%) became positive. The overall TTP was 21.33 h (Q1-Q3 13.17-32.46). The difference between the median TTP in early onset versus late-onset sepsis was 0.83 h (22.00 versus 21.17 h, P=0.75). The median TTP for Gram-negative organisms was 11.17 h (Q1-Q3 8.84-15.67), whereas the median TTP for Gram-positive organisms was 23.59 h (Q1-Q3 15.29-34.58, P<0.001). In Gram-positive isolates, the median TTP for coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) was 26.67 h (Q1-Q3 19.00-38.17), whereas the median TTP for non-CNS was 12.83 h (Q1-Q3 10.50-18.17, P<0.001). The median TTP in proven sepsis was 20.17 h (Q1-Q3 13.00-30.37), whereas it was 29.67 h (Q1-Q3 21.17-50.63, P<0.001) in non-proven sepsis. TTP of neonatal blood cultures was significantly shorter for Gram-negative organisms. We suggest shortening the total incubation time of neonatal blood cultures to a maximum of 3 days. However, blood cultures collected in infants<72 h of age might require a longer incubation time. According to our results, it may be safe to narrow the antimicrobial spectrum to solely target Gram-positive bacteria when the culture is still negative after 48 h, and to cease antimicrobial therapy when the culture is still negative after 72 h in clinically well infants.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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