The problem with false-positive blood cultures

Determining whether a bloodstream infection exists is critical to the wellbeing of patients and the financial health of hospitals.

A blood culture test is the gold standard for identifying bacteremia.

Each year, millions of blood culture tests inform patient care decisions in the U.S. The majority will find no infection.1 But, of the cultures that test positive, almost 1/3 are false-positive results.

blood culture collection set: Positive

When blood cultures test positive—whether true or false—immediate action is taken to treat the patient with antibiotic therapy.

blood culture collection set: False Positive

Roughly 20% of the microbes present in skin reside deep in the dermis layer and may be drawn into blood samples.2 Without a way to avoid these microbes, hospitals have accepted high rates of seemingly unavoidable false positives.

Learn more about Blood Culture Contamination and Clinical Best Practice


Just like the boy who cried wolf, high numbers of false positive results cause physicians to question the test, compromising a fast and appropriate response. Hear experts explain the consequences of blood culture contamination.

This essential resource for nurses and phlebotomists explains the importance of blood culture testing, its current shortcomings associated with culture contamination and clinical best practice recommendations.

1 Zwang O, Albert RK. Analysis of Strategies to Improve Cost Effectiveness of Blood Cultures. J Hosp Med. 2006 Sep;1(5):272-6.
2 Garcia RA, Spitzer ED, Beaudry J, et al. Multidisciplinary team review of best practices for collection and handling of blood cultures to determine effective interventions for increasing the yield of true-positive bacteremia, reducing contamination, and eliminating false-positive central line-associated bloodstream infections. Am J Infect Control. 2015 Nov 1;43(11):1222-37.

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