Routine testing for anaerobic bacteria in cerebrospinal fluid cultures improves recovery of clinically significant pathogens

Meredith E. Pittman, Benjamin S. Thomas, Meghan A. Wallace, Carol J. Weber, Carey Ann D. Burnhama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


In North America, the widespread use of vaccines targeting Haemophilus influenzae type b and Streptococcus pneumoniae have dramatically altered the epidemiology of bacterial meningitis, while the methodology for culturing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) specimens has remained largely unchanged. The aims of this study were 2-fold: to document the current epidemiology of bacterial meningitis at a tertiary care medical center and to assess the clinical utility of routinely querying for anaerobes in CSF cultures. To that end, we assessed CSF cultures submitted over a 2-year period. A brucella blood agar (BBA) plate, incubated anaerobically for 5 days, was included in the culture procedure for all CSF specimens during the second year of evaluation. In the preand postimplementation years, 2,353 and 2,302 CSF specimens were cultured, with 49 and 99 patients having positive culture results, respectively. The clinical and laboratory data for patients with positive cultures were reviewed. Anaerobic bacteria were isolated in the CSF samples from 33 patients post-BBA compared to two patients pre-BBA (P0.01). The anaerobic isolates included Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron (n ), Propionibacterium species (n15), and Propionibacterium acnes (n19) isolates; all of these isolates were recovered on the BBA. Eight of the 35 patients from whom anaerobic organisms were isolated received antimicrobial therapy. Although six of these patients had central nervous system hardware, two patients did not have a history of a neurosurgical procedure and had community-acquired anaerobic bacterial meningitis. This study demonstrates that the simple addition of an anaerobically incubated BBA to the culture of CSF specimens enhances the recovery of clinically significant anaerobic pathogens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1824-1829
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


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