Background: Short-term culture followed by MALDI-TOF MS is one of the most widely used methods for fast identification of microorganisms from blood cultures. The method identifies the vast majority of bloodstream infection pathogens in 2–6 h after positive blood culture. Transport time of blood culture bottles to laboratories is a major problem affecting total turnaround time. Therefore, many central laboratories establish satellite blood culture systems in other clinics and hospitals to allow blood culture bottles to be incubated immediately after sampling. However, positive blood culture bottles still need to be transported to the clinical microbiology laboratory for analysis. The aim of this study was to investigate how delayed analysis of positive blood culture bottles would affect the short-term culture followed by MALDI-TOF MS method. Materials/methods: To simulate the effect of transportation and delayed analysis of blood culture bottles, 51 simulated blood culture bottles were incubated for 0, 2, 4 and 24 h at room temperature. After each time interval, a 2 to 4 h short-term culture followed by MALDI-TOF MS was performed. In addition, 257 prospective clinical positive blood culture bottles were analysed with the same method after a 24 h incubation at room temperature. Results: In simulated samples, all (120/120) Gram-negative bacteria and 77/84 (91.6%) Gram-positive bacteria were accurately identified at species-level after a 2 h short-term culture, regardless of the duration of simulated transport time. In the clinical samples, 100/116 (86.2%) Gram-negative, and 44/141 (31.2%) Gram-positive bacteria were accurately identified at species-level after a 2 h short-term culture. After contaminants were excluded, 39/71 (54.9%) Gram-positive bacteria could be identified after 2 h. After a 4 h short-term culture, 112/116 (96.6%) Gram-negative, and 108/141 (76.6%) Gram-positive bacteria were accurately identified at species-level. Of the clinically relevant Gram-positive bacteria, 68/71 (95.8%) were identified at species-level after 4 h. Conclusions: Short-term culture followed by MALDI-TOF MS can provide fast and accurate results for identification of clinically relevant bacteria, despite long transportation times from satellite laboratories. The present data shows that the method can be used for identification of microorganisms from positive blood cultures transported from satellite blood culture systems.
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