In severely immunocompromised patients, the diagnosis of viral infections relies on PCR/RT-PCR based methods. The availability of these modern diagnostic tools facilitates timely diagnosis and contributes to our increasing knowledge of the epidemiology and clinical spectrum of common and emerging viral pathogens in this highly susceptible population. Viral infections may result in life threatening disease in paediatric cancer patients after stem cell transplantation and also during conventional chemotherapy. Often, clinical symptoms are a consequence of endogenous reactivation of latent viral infection. Many of these viruses are easily transmitted between patients, relatives and health care workers. As prolonged symptomatic and asymptomatic viral shedding is a common feature in paediatric cancer patients, it is necessary to implement strategies for the prevention and control of these communicable pathogens in the hospital setting and in the outpatient clinic. Although no randomised controlled studies on paediatric cancer patients are available, physicians should be aware of potential treatment options since early treatment may prevent a complicated or fatal outcome and shorten the period of contagiosity.
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Competing interests: None.
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