Reasons for performing study: Standard methods for culturing equine synovial fluid (SF) are often unrewarding. Evidence-based information on the relative efficiency of different systems used for optimisation of isolation of microorganisms from equine SF is lacking.
Objectives: To compare the results of different culture systems performed in parallel on SF samples from horses clinically diagnosed with synovial sepsis.
Methods: Synovial fluid specimens were collected between February 2007 and October 2008 from all horses admitted to a referral hospital that were clinically diagnosed with synovial sepsis and from control horses. Synovial fluid samples were cultured in parallel by: 1) direct agar culture (DA); agar culture after: 2) lysis-centrifugation pretreatment (LC); 3) conventional enrichment (CE); 4) combined LC/CE; or 5) blood culture medium enrichment using an automated system (BACTEC 9050).
Results: Ninety SF samples from 82 horses were included, together with 40 control samples. Seventy-one of 90 samples (79%) were culture-positive by using blood culture medium enrichment (BACTEC), which was significantly higher compared to all other methods. BACTEC enrichment was never negative while any of the other methods was positive. Although agar culture following LC and/or CE resulted in a slightly higher number of positive samples compared to DA, this difference was not significant. All control samples were culture negative by the 5 different techniques. Although the majority of samples containing isolates recovered without enrichment, culture results after BACTEC enrichment were available on the same day as for agar culture with or without LC (19/23 samples), while CE postponed recovery by at least one day in 20/23 samples.
Conclusion: Blood culture medium enrichment is superior to other techniques for isolation of bacteria from SF of horses. The use of an automated system allows enrichment without substantially postponing recovery of microorganisms.
Potential relevance: The efficient and fast isolation of microorganisms from infected SF by the BACTEC system allows for rapid susceptibility testing and a more appropriate antibiotic treatment.