Sub-optimal recovery of bacterial DNA from whole blood samples can limit the sensitivity of molecular assays to detect pathogenic bacteria. We compared 3 different pre-lysis protocols (none, mechanical pre-lysis and achromopeptidasepre-lysis) and 5 commercially available DNA extraction platforms for direct detection of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) in spiked whole blood samples, without enrichment culture. DNA was extracted using the QIAamp Blood Mini kit (Qiagen), UCP Pathogen Mini kit (Qiagen), QuickGene DNA Whole Blood kit S (Fuji), Speed Xtract Nucleic Acid Kit 200 (Qiagen) and MagNA Pure Compact Nucleic Acid Isolation Kit I (Roche Diagnostics Corp). Mechanical pre-lysis increased yields of bacterial genomic DNA by 51.3 fold (95% confidence interval; 31.6–85.1, p < 0.001) and pre-lysis with achromopeptidase by 6.1 fold (95% CI; 4.2–8.9, p < 0.001), compared with no pre-lysis. Differences in yield dueto pre-lysis were 2–3 fold larger than differences in yield between extraction methods. Including a pre-lysis step can improve the limits of detection of GBS using PCR or other molecular methods without need for culture.