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Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Dec;94(49):e2264. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000002264.

Can We Reduce Negative Blood Cultures With Clinical Scores and Blood Markers? Results From an Observational Cohort Study.

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From the University Department of Internal Medicine, Medical Faculty of the University of Basel, Kantonsspital Aarau, Switzerland (SL, NK, DS, ACR, AK, SF, LF, BM, PS); Asclepius Medical Communications LLC, Ridgewood, NJ, USA (PK); University Clinic of Infectious Diseases, University Hospital Bern (SH); Institute of Psychology, University of Bern (LF); Department of Laboratory Medicine, Kantonsspital (AH); and Clinic of Infectious Diseases, Kantonsspital Aarau, Switzerland (CAF).


Only a small proportion of blood cultures routinely performed in emergency department (ED) patients is positive. Multiple clinical scores and biomarkers have previously been examined for their ability to predict bacteremia. Conclusive clinical validation of these scores and biomarkers is essential.This observational cohort study included patients with suspected infection who had blood culture sampling at ED admission. We assessed 5 clinical scores and admission concentrations of procalcitonin (PCT), C-reactive protein (CRP), lymphocyte and white blood cell counts, the neutrophil-lymphocyte count ratio (NLCR), and the red blood cell distribution width (RDW). Two independent physicians assessed true blood culture positivity. We used logistic regression models with area under the curve (AUC) analysis.Of 1083 patients, 104 (9.6%) had positive blood cultures. Of the clinical scores, the Shapiro score performed best (AUC 0.729). The best biomarkers were PCT (AUC 0.803) and NLCR (AUC 0.700). Combining the Shapiro score with PCT levels significantly increased the AUC to 0.827. Limiting blood cultures only to patients with either a Shapiro score of ≥4 or PCT > 0.1 μg/L would reduce negative sampling by 20.2% while still identifying 100% of positive cultures. Similarly, a Shapiro score ≥3 or PCT >0.25 μg/L would reduce cultures by 41.7% and still identify 96.1% of positive blood cultures.Combination of the Shapiro score with admission levels of PCT can help reduce unnecessary blood cultures with minimal false negative rates.The study was registered on January 9, 2013 at the '' registration web site (NCT01768494).

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Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: this work was supported in part by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF Professorship, PP00P3_150531/1, 32003B_135222), the Swiss Academy for Medical Sciences (Schweizerische Akademie der Medizinischen Wissenschaften [SAMW]), and the Research Council of the Kantonsspital Aarau, Switzerland (1410.000.044). No commercial sponsor had any involvement in the design or conduct of any aspect of this study, including collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data, preparation, review, and approval of the manuscript, and decision to submit the manuscript for publication. AK, BM, and PS have received support from BRAHMS AG (now Thermo Fisher Scientific Biomarkers) to attend meetings and fulfill speaking engagements. BM and PS have received support from bioMérieux to attend meetings and fulfill speaking engagements and have received research grants from both companies, whereas BM has served as a consultant to both companies. All other authors declare no competing interests.The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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