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How to use… blood cultures
  1. Surjo Kiran De1,
  2. Nandini Shetty2,
  3. Michael Kelsey1
  1. 1Department of Microbiology, Whittington Health NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Microbiology, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Surjo Kiran De, Department of Microbiology, Whittington Health NHS Trust, Magdala Avenue, London N19 5NF, UK;{at}


Positive blood culture is the gold standard for diagnosing bacteraemia and fungaemia, yet there is significant variability in aspects of performing and interpreting the test in children and neonates. Processing a blood culture can take several days, and includes use of semi-automated incubation with growth detection and a broad range of laboratory techniques such as Gram staining, phenotypic or molecular identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing on a cultured isolate. Sensitivity and specificity of a blood culture and time-to-positivity depend on a number of factors related to host/pathogen interaction, collection and transport of the specimen to the laboratory and methods employed to process the specimen. Interpretation of a positive result relies on correlation of the identity of the cultured microorganism with the clinical assessment of the child.

  • Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • General Paediatrics
  • Neonatology

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