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Does the sampling instrument influence corneal culture outcome in patients with infectious keratitis? A retrospective study comparing cotton tipped applicator with knife blade
  1. Susanna Sagerfors1,
  2. Birgitta Ejdervik-Lindblad1,
  3. Bo Söderquist2
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Örebro University, SE 70182, Örebro, Sweden
  2. 2Department of Laboratory Medicine, Clinical Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Örebro University, SE 70182, Örebro, Sweden
  1. Correspondence to Dr Susanna Sagerfors; susanna.sagerfors{at}


Objective This study aimed to compare the efficacy of a cotton tipped applicator and a knife blade in obtaining corneal samples in patients with infectious keratitis.

Methods and analysis This is a retrospective cohort study of patients with suspected infectious keratitis during 2004–2014. Samples for corneal culture were obtained by a cotton tipped applicator and a knife blade, and directly inoculated on GC agar, blood agar and Sabouraud agar.

Results In all, 355 patients were included. Corneal sampling by cotton tipped applicator yielded a significantly higher rate of patients with positive corneal culture, 156/355 (43.9%), compared with knife blade, 111/355 (31.3%) (p<0.001). On a patient level, the culture results obtained by the cotton tipped applicator and the knife blade were identical in 269/355 (76%) of the patients. The overall agreement between the two instruments on microbial level was 0.66 (Cohen’s kappa 95% CI 0.60 to 0.72).

Conclusion Corneal sampling by cotton tipped applicator generated a higher rate of positive corneal cultures and a higher proportion of isolated microbes than by knife blade. Future studies with randomised sampling order are needed to establish which instrument, cotton tipped applicator or knife blade, is the most effective in sampling microbes for direct inoculation in patients with infectious keratitis.

  • infection
  • microbiology
  • cornea

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  • Contributors All authors have contributed to the manuscript according to the guidelines by ICMJE.

  • Funding This study was funded by Region Örebro County Council research committee.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval by the Regional Ethical Review Board of Uppsala (ref: 2015/335/1) was obtained before the study was initiated.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article.

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