Invasive Bacterial and Fungal Infections in Paediatric Patients with Cancer: Incidence, Risk Factors, Aetiology and Outcomes in a UK Regional Cohort 2009–2011

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Cancer is the second most common cause of childhood deaths in the United Kingdom and infection contributes to a quarter of all cancer-related deaths. This study aimed to estimate the risk, aetiology and outcome of bloodstream bacterial and fungal infections in children with cancer within a geographically defined region in South-West London over a 3-year period.


Web-based questionnaires were completed using case records of children with positive blood cultures admitted to five London hospitals during 2009–2011.


A total of 112 children with a median age of 5.4 (IQR 3.6–11.2) years had 266 significant blood cultures during 149 infection episodes. Haematological malignancy affected 68 patients (60.7%) and solid tumours 44 (39.3%). The overall bloodstream infection rate was 1.5 episodes per 1,000 days-at-risk (95% CI, 1.2–1.8) and was similar for those with haematological malignancies and solid tumours. Most episodes were attributed to central venous catheter infection (120/149, 80.5%). Coagulase-negative staphylococci were isolated in almost half the bloodstream infections (127/266; 47.7%), while Gram-negative organisms accounted for a further quarter (64/266; 24.1%). Fungal isolates from blood were uncommon (8/112 children, 7.1%) but significantly associated with neutropenia (18/149 [12.1%] vs. 1/114 [0.9%], P = 0.0004). Six children (5.4%) died, including three (2.7%; 95% CI, 0.6–7.6%) whose deaths were infection-related.


This study provides an updated risk estimate for bloodstream infections in children with cancer and adds to the framework for developing evidence-based guidance for management of suspected infections in this highly vulnerable group.

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