Impact of delays to incubation and storage temperature on blood culture results: a multi-centre study
Ling CL., Roberts T., Soeng S., Cusack T-P., Dance DAB., Lee SJ., Reed TAN., Hinfonthong P., Sihalath S., Sengduangphachanh A., Watthanaworawit W., Wangrangsimakul T., Newton PN., Nosten FH., Turner P., Ashley EA.
Abstract Background Blood cultures are one of the most important tests performed by microbiology laboratories. Many hospitals, particularly in low and middle-income countries, lack either microbiology services or staff to provide 24 h services resulting in delays to blood culture incubation. There is insufficient guidance on how to transport/store blood cultures if delays before incubation are unavoidable, particularly if ambient temperatures are high. This study set out to address this knowledge gap. Methods In three South East Asian countries, four different blood culture systems (two manual and two automated) were used to test blood cultures spiked with five common bacterial pathogens. Prior to incubation the spiked blood culture bottles were stored at different temperatures (25 °C, in a cool-box at ambient temperature, or at 40 °C) for different lengths of time (0 h, 6 h, 12 h or 24 h). The impacts of these different storage conditions on positive blood culture yield and on time to positivity were examined. Results There was no significant loss in yield when blood cultures were stored < 24 h at 25 °C, however, storage for 24 h at 40 °C decreased yields and longer storage times increased times to detection. Conclusion Blood cultures should be incubated with minimal delay to maximize pathogen recovery and timely result reporting, however, this study provides some reassurance that unavoidable delays can be managed to minimize negative impacts. If delays to incubation ≥ 12 h are unavoidable, transportation at a temperature not exceeding 25 °C, and blind sub-cultures prior to incubation should be considered.