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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on blood culture practices and bloodstream infections


The COVID-19 pandemic has likely influenced the epidemiology of bacterial infections through wide-ranging changes to clinical practices and infection control and prevention interventions. We sought to determine how the detection and incidence of bloodstream infections (BSIs) have been influenced by the pandemic. We performed a retrospective analysis of blood culture data in the province of Ontario, Canada, from 1 January 2017 to 31 December 2020. Outcomes included a weekly incidence of blood culture tests, BSIs, and contaminant results. Results were stratified by hospital, community, and long-term care (LTC) settings. An interrupted time series analysis using segmented regression models was used to determine changes in outcome incidence/prevalence during the pre- and peri-pandemic periods. Of the 14,083,853 individuals included, 129,329 (0.92%) developed a bloodstream infection. The blood culture ordering rate increased during the pandemic in the hospital setting only [Incidence rate ratio (IRR) 1.09, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.01–1.19]. There was a decline in the incidence of community-acquired (IRR 0.95, 95% CI 0.91–0.99) and LTC-acquired (IRR 0.85, 95% CI 0.76–0.94) BSIs. Hospital-acquired BSIs were unchanged. The proportion of blood culture contaminants increased in the community (7% increase, P < 0.01) and LTC settings (14% increase, P < 0.05). There was decreased incidence of community-acquired Streptococcus pneumoniae (IRR 0.43, 95% CI 0.33–0.57) and Staphylococcus aureus (IRR 0.91, 95% CI 0.84–0.99) bacteremia. Pandemic-related changes in the performance of blood cultures and the epidemiology of BSIs have implications for current and future pandemic antimicrobial use, healthcare resource allocation, and hospital and laboratory policies.



Driedger M, Daneman N, Brown K, Gold WL, Jorgensen SCJ, Maxwell C, Schwartz KL, Morris AM, Thiruchelvam D, Langford B, Leung E, MacFadden D. Microbiol Spectr. 2023; Nov 17 [Epub ahead of print].

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