We have analysed our experience in the management of suspected infection in a group of 221 children with acute leukaemia undergoing induction of first remission. Patients with suspected infection received early empirical antibiotic therapy with cephalothin and gentamicin pending results of bacteriological investigations. Infection occurred in 17% of children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) whose initial treatment comprised prednisolone and vincristine, and was serious in 6·5%. 27% of children with ALL treated with intensive induction had infections which were serious in 20%; the figures for children with acute myeloblastic leukaemia (AML) were 49% and 22% respectively. The organisms responsible for most infections were Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus; the former being most often associated with bacteraemia. One child (0·5%) died from infection.
We conclude that with the use of early empirical antibiotic therapy, and granulocytes when appropriate, infection is no longer a major cause of death during remission induction. No special precautions are necessary to prevent its acquisition in most cases of ALL. In patients receiving early intensive treatment, including those with AML, measures designed to prevent acquisition of infection may reduce morbidity and enable the use of more effective chemotherapy.
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