n South African Medical Journal - Blood cultures in sick children : research

Volume 103, Issue 12
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Blood cultures (BCs) are frequently performed in sick children. A recent audit of BCs among adult patients documented high rates of contamination by coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS).

To describe BC contamination rates and common pathogenic organisms causing bloodstream infection in children at a tertiary-level children's hospital.
BC results for children admitted to Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital from 2008 to 2012 were extracted from the National Health Laboratory Service database. Pathogenic and non-pathogenic (contaminated) growth on BCs in children <1 year of age and >1 year of age, were analysed. Data analysis was performed using Epi Info version 3.5.1.
A total of 47 677 BCs were performed in the 5-year period. The proportion of contaminated specimens ranged between 5.9% and 7.2% per year (=0.4). CoNS was the predominant isolate in 53.8% of all contaminated BCs. Children <1 year of age experienced higher contamination rates than children >1 year of age (8.7% v. 4.7%; relative risk 1.84; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.71 - 1.97). Pathogenic organisms were isolated in 6.2% (95% CI 6.0 - 6.4) of all BC specimens. Among Gram-positive organisms, the proportion of isolates declined from 14.3% to 4.7% (< 0.00001), while there was a significant increase in Gram-negative organisms (51.8% - 57.9%; =0.04) over the 5-year period. , the predominant Enterobacteriaceae isolated, decreased from 45.8% to 31.7% (=0.004).
This study identified unacceptably high BC contamination rates, emphasising the importance of collecting BC specimens under sterile conditions.

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