Blood culture contamination in the departments of paediatrics and child health at two tertiary training hospitals in central South Africa

R C Krause


Background. Bloodstream infections are an important cause of mortality in children. Blood cultures (BCs) remain the primary means of identifying organisms and their antibiotic susceptibility profiles. A shortcoming of BCs is that up to 56% of positive cultures will represent contaminants. Poor adherence to standard practices applicable to BC sampling could explain an unacceptable contamination rate.

Objectives. To determine: (i) the BC contamination rate in the departments of paediatrics and child health at two tertiary hospitals in central South Africa; and (ii) BC sampling practices among paediatric clinicians.

Methods. The author determined the prevalence of BC contamination by analysis of laboratory data for the period 1 May - 27 August 2019, and assessed possible factors contributing to BC contamination by surveying paediatric medical staff with a self-administered BC practices questionnaire.

Results. Of the 244 BCs reviewed, 25.4% were positive. The most commonly isolated pathogens were coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) (33.3%), Escherichia coli (22.2%), Enterococcus faecium (16.7%) and Acinetobacter baumannii (11.1%). In total, 15.2% of the BCs yielded contaminants and 2.9% had polymicrobial growth. The most common contaminant was CoNS. Approximately 68% of clinicians were not aware of BC sampling guidelines, and even among those who were aware of the guidelines, non-compliance was reported.

Conclusions. The BC contamination rate was higher than internationally accepted rates. Educating clinicians on specific BC sampling guidelines is strongly recommended to decrease the high rate of contamination observed in this study.

Author's affiliations

R C Krause, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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Blood culture; Paediatric; Guidelines; Technique; Compliance

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2022;112(2):102-107.

Article History

Date submitted: 2022-02-01
Date published: 2022-02-01

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