Real life turnaround time of blood cultures in the clinical microbiology laboratory: results of the first Italian survey, May 2015

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Fabio Arena *
Marta Argentieri
Paola Bernaschi
Giacomo Fortina
Vesselina Kroumova
Esther Manso
Pier Giorgio Montanera
Pierluigi Nicoletti
Patrizia Pecile
Mario Rassu
Gian Maria Rossolini
Teresa Spanu
Pierangelo Clerici
Carla Fontana
(*) Corresponding Author:
Fabio Arena |


Background and aims: Blood culture (BC) results are essential to guide antimicrobial chemotherapy for patients with sepsis. However, BC is a time-consuming exam, which can take several days. Reducing BCs turn around time (TAT) could impact on multiple outcome parameters and TAT monitoring is an important tool for measurement of microbiology laboratory performance. The aim of this study was to provide an overview of BC TATs among Italian microbiology laboratories.
Materials and methods: Five laboratories collected and recorded, for a month period, date and time of the BC processing events. Cumulative TATs were analysed using the GraphPad software.
Results: Participating laboratories reported data from 302 sepsis episodes. The median time from when the BC system produced a positive signal until Gram-stain results were reported was 7.6 hours. A rapid molecular identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) was performed in 26.5% of BCs. Mean TAT for identification report was significantly lower when a molecular approach was adopted (12 vs. 28.7 hours, P<0.001). Similarly, results of the molecular AST were obtained more than 24 hours in advance compared with phenotypic AST (mean 13.2 vs. 47.6, P<0.001). TATs from BC positivity of laboratories opened 7 days/week were not significantly lower than those of laboratories opened 6 days/week.
Conclusions: BC is a time-consuming exam, however, molecular identification and AST methods can drastically reduce time to results. The lack of difference between TATs observed for laboratories working 7 days/week and 6 days/week, coupled with a high rate of BCs turning positive during the night enable to conclude that the most urgent measure to reduce TATs is the expansion of laboratory regular duty hours.

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