Purpose of review: In the recent years, several studies involving cancer patients have demonstrated a clear trend in the epidemiology of bacterial infections showing a shift in the prevalence from Gram-positive to Gram-negative bacteria and the extensive emergence of antimicrobial-resistant strains among Gram-negatives isolated from the blood. The aim of this systematic review was to examine the recent trends in epidemiology and antimicrobial resistance in Gram-negatives recovered from neutropenic cancer patients, with particular emphasis on the impact of antimicrobial resistance on the clinical outcome of severe infections caused by such microorganisms.
Recent findings: Overall, from 2007 to date, the rate of Gram-negative bacteria recovery ranged from 24.7 to 75.8% (mean 51.3%) in cancer patient cohorts. Escherichia coli represented the most common species (mean frequency of isolation 32.1%) among the Gram-negatives, followed by Pseudomonas aeruginosa (mean frequency of isolation 20.1%). An increasing frequency of Acinetobacter spp. and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia was also reported. Increased rates of multidrug-resistant Gram-negative strains have been highlighted among Enterobacteriaceae and nonfermenting Gram-negative rods, despite discontinuation of fluoroquinolone-based antibacterial prophylaxis for neutropenic patients. In addition, antimicrobial resistance and/or the inadequacy of empirical antibiotic treatment have been frequently linked to a worse outcome in cancer patients with bloodstream infections caused by Gram-negative isolates.
Summary: Sound knowledge of the local distribution of pathogens and their susceptibility patterns and prompt initiation of effective antimicrobial treatment for severe infections caused by Gram-negative bacteria are essential in cancer patients.