Semin Respir Crit Care Med. 2022 Feb;43(1):75-96. doi: 10.1055/s-0041-1741018. Epub 2022 Feb 16.
The prevalence of suspected or proven infections in critically ill patients is high, with a substantial attributable risk to in-hospital mortality. Coordinated guidance and interventions to improve the appropriate microbiological assessment for diagnostic and therapeutic decisions are therefore pivotal. Conventional microbiology follows the paradigm of "best practice" of specimen selection and collection, governed by laboratory processing and standard operating procedures, and informed by the latest developments and trends. In this regard, the preanalytical phase of a microbiological diagnosis is crucial since inadequate sampling may result in the incorrect diagnosis and inappropriate management. In addition, the isolation and detection of contaminants interfere with multiple intensive care unit (ICU) processes, which confound the therapeutic approach to critically ill patients. To facilitate bedside enablement, the microbiology laboratory should provide expedited feedback, reporting, and interpretation of results. Compared with conventional microbiology, novel rapid and panel-based diagnostic strategies have the clear advantages of a rapid turnaround time, the detection of many microorganisms including antimicrobial resistant determinants and thus promise substantial improvements in health care. However, robust data on the clinical evaluation of rapid diagnostic tests in presumed sepsis, sepsis and shock are extremely limited and more rigorous intervention studies, focusing on direct benefits for critically ill patients, are pivotal before widespread adoption of their use through the continuum of ICU stay. Advocating the use of these diagnostics without firmly establishing which patients would benefit most, how to interpret the results, and how to treat according to the results obtained, could in fact be counterproductive with regards to diagnostic "best practice" and antimicrobial stewardship. Thus, for the present, they may supplement but not yet supplant conventional microbiological assessments.