Sepsis patients should get blood culture before antibiotics, study suggests

Physicians should take at least one blood culture from sepsis patients before administering antibiotics, as the therapy can create less reliable test results, according to a study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Sepsis treatment guidelines call for the early administration of antibiotics, with blood cultures drawn before and after such therapy. For the study, researchers sought to determine whether immediate antibiotic use affects the diagnostic sensitivity of blood cultures.

Researchers analyzed data on 325 adult sepsis patients from seven emergency departments in North America. Blood cultures were drawn before and within 120 minutes of patients receiving antibiotics. 

Researchers found blood cultures taken shortly after antibiotic initiation were significantly less sensitive, which can hinder physicians' ability to diagnose the infection and tailor treatment appropriately, according to the study authors.

"Now we know that even if blood cultures are performed very rapidly after antibiotics, they lose a significant amount of their diagnostic ability," study co-author Murtaza Akhter, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, said in a news release. "Although administering antibiotics to septic patients is important, it is imperative to get at least one blood culture before providing the treatment."

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