Fatal false-negative transfusion infection involving a buffy coat platelet pool contaminated with biofilm-positiveStaphylococcus epidermidis: a case report

    loading  Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid



Bacterial contamination of platelet concentrates (PCs) poses the major posttransfusion infectious risk in developed countries. The aerobic microorganism most frequently isolated from PCs is coagulase-negative Staphylococcus epidermidis, a normal inhabitant of the human skin, which has been involved in fatal transfusion reactions worldwide.


In September 2014, a splenectomized elderly male patient, suffering from leukemia, was transfused with two 5-day-old buffy coat platelet (PLT) pools. The patient returned to emergency on the same day with a low-grade fever. He was bacteremic and died on the next day. Microbiology and molecular testing of a blood sample from the patient and one of the PCs yielded the same S. epidermidis strain. Further analysis demonstrated that this S. epidermidis isolate displays a biofilm-positive phenotype in PCs.


At Canadian Blood Services, PCs are screened for bacterial contamination with the BacT/ALERT system (bioMérieux) at approximately 24 hours postcollection. The implicated PC had been tested and yielded a false-negative culture result. A titration experiment indicated that, at the time of screening, the contaminated PC had a titer of less than 0.74 colony-forming units (CFU)/mL (<227 CFUs/unit) of S. epidermidis. Mathematical models have predicted that up to 70% of PCs contaminated with coagulase-negative staphylococci at concentrations of 0.02 CFU/mL can be missed by BacT/ALERT screening.


Despite several mitigation strategies, false-negative cultures with current PLT screening practices still occur. This report creates awareness of the pathogenicity of opportunistic S. epidermidis, a low-virulence organism, in susceptible patients who may not develop a typical transfusion reaction.

Related Topics

    loading  Loading Related Articles