A prototype Malthus Microbiological Growth Analyser was compared with conventional methods for examining blood cultures in a trial of 651 cultures mostly from patients with haematological malignancy or undergoing haemodialysis or renal transplantation. Of 100 significantly positive cultures, organisms from 82 grew in the conventional aerobic (+ CO2) bottle, 78 in the conventional anaerobic bottle and 71 in the Malthus bottle. The differences were not statistically significant (p greater than 0.05). The Malthus system detected 83.6% of significantly positive cultures earlier than the comparable conventional bottles while 7.3% positive cultures were detected earlier by the conventional system. When use of the Malthus system was restricted to the hours of 09.00 to 17.30 daily 27.3% positive cultures were detected earlier by the Malthus system and 16.4% were detected earlier by the conventional system. One of the organisms which grew in the Malthus bottle, a contaminating Staphylococcus epidermidis, was not detected by the Malthus system. Instability of electrodes resulted in 26.9% false positive cultures with the prototype Malthus system. Contamination rates in both the Malthus and conventional anaerobic bottles were lower than in the aerobic bottles.
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