Infections in children treated for cancer contribute to morbidity and mortality. There is a paucity of studies on the incidence, etiology, risk factors and outcome of bacterial infections in African children treated for cancer. The aim of the study was to delineate the epidemiology of infectious morbidity and mortality in children with cancer.
The study enrolled children 1–19 years old with cancer and infections. Children were investigated for infection as part of standard of care.
One hundred sixty-nine children were enrolled, 82 with hematologic malignancies and 87 with solid tumors and 10.7% were HIV infected. The incidence (per 100 child-years) of septic episodes (101) microbiologically confirmed (70.9) septic episodes, Gram-positive (48.5) and Gram-negative (37.6) sepsis was higher in children with hematologic malignancies than in those with solid tumors. The most common Gram-positive bacteria were Coagulase-negative Staphylococci, Streptococcus viridans and Enterococcus faecium, while the most common Gram-negative bacteria were Escherichia coli, Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas species. The C-reactive protein and procalcitonin was higher in microbiologically confirmed sepsis. The case fatality risk was 40.4%; 80% attributed to sepsis. The odds of dying from sepsis were higher in children with profound [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 3.96; P = 0.004] or prolonged neutropenia (aOR = 3.71; P = 0.011) and profound lymphopenia (aOR = 4.09; P = 0.003) and independently associated with pneumonia (53.85% vs. 29.23%; aOR = 2.38; P = 0.025) and tuberculosis (70.83% vs. 34.91%; aOR = 4.3; P = 0.005).
The study emphasizes the high burden of sepsis in African children treated for cancer and highlights the association of tuberculosis and pneumonia as independent predictors of death in children with cancer.