Background: Fever and neutropenia (FN) often complicate anticancer treatment and can be caused by potentially fatal infections. Knowledge of pathogen distribution is paramount for optimal patient management.
Methods: Microbiologically defined infections (MDI) in pediatric cancer patients presenting with FN by nonmyeloablative chemotherapy enrolled in a prospective multicenter study were analyzed. Effectiveness of empiric antibiotic therapy in FN episodes with bacteremia was assessed taking into consideration recently published treatment guidelines for pediatric patients with FN.
Results: MDI were identified in a minority (22%) of pediatric cancer patients with FN. In patients with, compared with patients without MDI, fever [median, 5 (interquartile range: 3–8) vs. 2 (interquartile range: 1–3) days, P < 0.001] and hospitalization [10 (6–14) vs. 5 (3–8) days, P < 0.001] lasted longer, transfer to the intensive care unit was more likely [13 of 95 (14%) vs. 7 of 346 (2.0%), P < 0.001], and antibiotics were given longer [10 (7–14) vs. 5 (4–7) days, P < 0.001]. Empiric antibiotic therapy in FN episodes with bacteremia was highly effective if not only intrinsic and reported antimicrobial susceptibilities were considered but also the purposeful omission of coverage for coagulase-negative staphylococci and enterococci was taken into account [81% (95% confidence interval: 68–90) vs. 96.6% (95% confidence interval: 87–99.4), P = 0.004].
Conclusions: MDI were identified in a minority of FN episodes but they significantly affected management and the clinical course of pediatric cancer patients. Compliance with published guidelines was associated with effectiveness of empiric antibiotic therapy in FN episodes with bacteremia.