Monitoring of apheresis platelet bacterial contamination with an automated liquid culture system: a university experience


  • Funded by a grant from bioMérieux (formerly Organon Teknika).

Address reprint requests to: Mark E. Brecher, MD, Transfusion Medicine Service, CB 7600, University of North Carolina Hospitals, 101 Manning Drive, Chapel Hill, NC 27514; e-mail:


BACKGROUND: With 4 million platelet units transfused per year in the United States and with the current estimate of bacteria contamination rate in PLT units, it would be expected that 2000 to 4000 bacterially contaminated units are transfused and associated with 333 to 1000 cases of clinical sepsis.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Apheresis platelets were sampled on Day 2 of storage (collection day=Day 0) and issue (or following outdate, Days 6–8) using a sterile connection device (SCD) to attach a sampling bag. Using aseptic technique and a laminar flow hood, bottles were inoculated and placed onto an automated liquid culture system (BacT/ALERT 3D Microbial Detection System) for 7 days.

RESULTS: A total of 2397 apheresis PLT units were sampled. A triple apheresis collection was reactive within 14 hours of the Day 2 sampling (aerobic bottles) and the bags were removed from inventory. Staphylococcus epidermidis was identified in all three contaminated bags. Two double-apheresis collections were found to be contaminated with Proprionibacterium sp. after 6 days of incubation but had been transfused to four patients without discernible clinical sequelae. There was one false-positive aerobic bottle and one false-positive anaerobic result due to inadvertent contamination of a bottle. Thus, the overall true-positive rate was 7 of 2397 apheresis units (0.29%) with a true-positive rate for aerobic organisms of 0.13% and an anaerobic true-positive rate of 0.17%. The false-positive rate was 2 out of 4794 samplings (0.04%) or 2 out of 9588 bottles (0.02%).

CONCLUSION: This preliminary data suggests that the use of a SCD, aseptic technique, and a laminar flow hood is associated with a low rate of contamination. In no case did an issue (or outdate) detect contamination that was not detected by the Day 2 culture. Additional surveillance is necessary before we can conclude that a Day 2 sterile culture is truly predictive of an issue (or outdate) sterile culture. Bacterial culture surveillance of PLTs would be expected to save lives and may facilitate an extension in PLT storage.