Experience of changing between signal and Bactec 9240 blood culture systems in a children's hospital

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To compare experience of positive blood cultures in successive years before and after changing from Signal (Unipath) to Bactec 9240 (Becton Dickinson) blood culture systems.


Analysis of data collected prospectively on 7967 Signal and 7062 Bactec blood cultures sets.


Significant growths occurred in 5.7% of Signal and 8.9% of Bactec cultures; 33.0% more significant isolates and 24.0% more episodes of bacteraemia were detected in the second year, following introduction of the Bactec system. Inpatient hospital activity increased by 8.2% between the first and second years, although the numbers of blood cultures received actually fell by 11.4%. There were striking increases in numbers of isolates of coagulase negative staphylococci (47.7%) and Enterobacteriaceae (56.8%) from Bactec cultures. Two anaerobic bacteraemias were detected in Signal blood cultures, whereas none was detected by the Bactec system, despite 12.1% of sets including an anaerobic bottle. Of significant positive cultures, 90.2% were detected within one day with the Bactec 9240, compared with only 50.0% of Signal cultures; 20.7% of significant positive Signal blood cultures were detected only on terminal subculture. Microorganisms that were not significant were isolated from 5.1% Signal and 3.8% Bactec cultures.


Compared with the Signal system, the Bactec 9240 offers markedly more rapid and sensitive detection of bacteraemia, together with a lower rate of non-significant isolates. However, using a single PEDS PLUS/F bottle the few episodes of anaerobic bacteraemia that occur in children are likely to be missed.

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