Date: 26 Jul 2013

Antibiotic prophylaxis in children with cancer or who have undergone hematopoietic cell transplantation

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Abstract

Bacterial infections are common in children with cancer and can lead to life-threatening complications. Infections in these patients mainly occur during neutropenic periods, and may be caused by Gram-positive or Gram-negative bacteria. The patients at highest risk of serious infections include those with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) or acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and those undergoing myeloablative hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT). This is a review with the main aim of making a critical appraisal of the literature, and summarising what is currently known and can be recommended. The most significant studies support the use of floroquinolones (mainly ciprofloxacin) as the most rational approach to treat pediatric patients with probably long-lasting neutropenia, although trimetoprim-sulphametoxazole and amoxicillin/clavulanate may theoretically be valid alternatives. No prophylaxis seems to be needed for children with cancer without severe neutropenia. However, a global evaluation of the studies of antibiotic prophylaxis in children with cancer indicates that there are not enough data to prepare definite guidelines for its use or avoidance in pediatric oncology, and so further studies are needed. It is not only important to define the best antibiotic regimens for the children in whom such prophylaxis is useful, but also to identify precisely those who do not need it. This would avoid the antibiotic misuse that probably occurs at the moment because many low-risk children with cancer are treated. As prophylaxis against infections requires long-term adherence to an antibiotic regimen, the attitudes and beliefs of stakeholders need to be fully considered.