Objectives: Blood culture isolates are the cornerstone of adequate antibiotic treatment. However, many blood cultures are contaminated with bacteria residing on the skin, the most common contaminants being coagulasenegative staphylococci (CoNS). Such contaminated cultures are mostly disregarded. In this retrospective study, we show that contaminated cultures contain diagnostic information. We tested the association between resistance profiles of CoNS contaminants and those of the actual infecting bacteria isolated subsequently from the same patient, as well as their association with short-term mortality. Methods: We identified all patients in Rabin Medical Center, Israel, with positive blood cultures during 2009-12. Data included patient demographics, hospitalization records, comorbidities, blood culture results and date of death. Results: Our cohort consists of 2518 patients with 5290 blood cultures, where 1124 patients had 1664 blood cultures with CoNS contaminants. High overall CoNS resistance predicted high overall resistance of the subsequent bacterial isolates (P<0.004 and P<0.0006, for Gram-positive and -negative bacteria, respectively). Moreover, the resistance of CoNS contaminants to a specific antibiotic predicted the resistance of the subsequent bacterial isolates to that antibiotic (OR=5.55, 95% CI=3.54-8.66, P<10-15 and OR=2.47, 95% CI=1.61-3.78, P<3×10-5, for Gram-positive and -negative bacteria, respectively). Finally, highly resistant CoNS isolates were associated with higher short-term mortality (hazard ratio=1.71, 95% CI=1.4-2.11, P<10-6). Conclusions: Resistance patterns of CoNS contaminants predict specific and overall resistance of subsequent blood culture isolates and short-term mortality. These results may help predict patient mortality and correct empirical antibiotic therapy if blood cultures yield contaminant bacteria and imply that skin commensals may serve as an additional, non-invasive, diagnostic tool.
- Antibiotic resistance