Pneumococcal antigen testing of blood culture broth to enhance the detection of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteremia

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The purpose of this investigation was to enhance the detection of pneumococcal bacteremia cases using the Binax NOW® immunochromatographic test (ICT) on blood culture broth as part of surveillance in two rural Thailand provinces. Blood cultures were collected as clinically indicated from hospitalized patients. ICT was performed on broth from culture bottles flagged as positive by BactT/ALERT® (alarm-positive) but which failed to grow organisms on subculture. During the period May 2005–June 2007, ICT was positive on 43 (24%) of 182 alarm-positive blood cultures with no growth on subculture. Compared to pneumococcal bacteremia cases confirmed by culture, cases detected only by ICT had a longer median time from culture collection to incubation and a longer median time from alarm positivity to subculture, and were more likely to be from patients pretreated with antibiotics. In a subsequent surveillance period (July 2007–December 2009), ICT continued to detect additional pneumococcal cases, but in a lower proportion of samples (7 of 221, 3.2%). Recently, as part of a separate study, ICT applied to uninoculated blood culture broth produced weak-positive results, mandating caution if testing broth from patient blood cultures. The antigen testing of blood culture broth appears to enhance the detection of pneumococcal bacteremia, but a controlled evaluation is needed.