In newborns at risk for early-onset sepsis, empiric antibiotics are often initiated while awaiting the results of blood cultures. The duration of empiric therapy can be guided by the time to positivity (TTP) of blood cultures. The objective of the study was to determine the TTP of neonatal blood cultures for early-onset sepsis and the factors which may impact TTP.
Observational study of blood cultures growing pathogenic species obtained within 72 hours of birth from infants born at 23–42 weeks gestation, at 19 hospitals in Northern California, Boston, and Philadelphia. TTP was defined as the time from blood culture collection to the time organism growth was reported by the microbiology laboratory.
A total of 594 blood cultures growing pathogenic bacteria were identified. Group B Streptococcus and Escherichia coli accounted for 74% of blood culture isolates. Median TTP was 21.0 hours (interquartile range, 17.1–25.3 hours). Blood cultures were identified as positive by 24 hours after they were obtained in 68% of cases; by 36 hours in 94% of cases; and by 48 hours in 97% of cases. Neither the administration of maternal intrapartum antibiotic prophylaxis, gestational age <35 weeks, nor blood culture system impacted median TTP.
Pathogens are isolated by 36 hours after blood culture collection in 94% of neonatal early blood cultures, regardless of maternal antibiotic administration. TTP information can inform decisions regarding the duration of empiric neonatal antibiotic therapies.