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Capasso L, Maddaluno S, Coppola C, et al. Do isolates from pharyngeal and rectal swabs match blood culture bacterial pathogens in septic VLBW infants? A pilot, cross-sectional study [published online ahead of print, 2020 Aug 28]. Eur J Pediatr. 2020;10.1007/s00431-020-03788-0. doi:10.1007/s00431-020-03788-0

Serial body site swabbing is used to monitor horizontal spread of aggressive bacterial species in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Since colonization/carriage is thought to precede systemic infection, one might expect to retrieve colonizing pathogens from blood cultures. This hypothesis, however, has not been fully investigated in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants that are at high sepsis’ risk. The primary outcome was, in a population of VLBW infants with late-onset sepsis, the matching between blood culture results and pathogens isolated from rectal and nose/pharyngeal surveillance swabs in the preceding 2 weeks. The secondary outcomes were the site of swabbing and time interval from colonization to blood culture positivity. Out of 333 VLBW neonates, 80 (24%) were diagnosed with bacterial sepsis. In 46 (57%) neonates, the blood culture showed the same pathogen species cultured from a swab. Of these, 30 were isolated from infants with both body sites colonized with an average time interval of 3.5 days; 2/16 were isolated from rectal swabs and 14 /16 from nose/pharyngeal samples.Conclusion: Our data show a fair correspondence between bacteria colonizing the nasopharynx and/or the rectum and pathogens later isolated from blood cultures. This association depends on the swabbing site, number of sites, and pathogen species. Although these data constitute valuable results, they are not sufficient for providing the sole base of a thoughtful clinical decision. What is Known: • Body site’s colonization may precede systemic infection. • Little is known on this mechanism in VLBW infants that are at higher sepsis’ risk. What is New: •Colonizing bacteria partially correspond to pathogens of blood cultures in VLBW infants with sepsis. • Correspondence depends on swabbing site, number of sites, and pathogen species.

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