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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Oct 19;(4):CD004386.

Antibiotic prophylaxis for bacterial infections in afebrile neutropenic patients following chemotherapy.

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  • 1Rabin Medical Center, Department of Medicine E, Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Campus, Petah-Tikva, Israel 49100.



Bacterial infections are a major cause of morbidity and mortality in neutropenic patients following chemotherapy for malignancy. Trials have shown the efficacy of antibiotic prophylaxis in decreasing the incidence of bacterial infections, but not in reducing mortality rates.


This review aimed to evaluate whether antibiotic prophylaxis in afebrile neutropenic patients reduced mortality when compared to placebo or no intervention.


Electronic searches on The Cochrane Cancer Network Register of Trials (2004), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library Issue 4, 2004), MEDLINE (1966 to 2004) and EMBASE (1980 to 2004) and abstracts of conference proceedings; references of identified studies; the first author of each included trial was contacted.


RCTs or quasi-RCTs comparing different types of antibiotic prophylaxis with placebo or no intervention, or another antibiotic to prevent bacterial infections in afebrile neutropenic patients.


Two authors independently appraised the quality of each trial and extracted data from the included trials. Relative risks (RR) or average differences, with their 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated.


One hundred trials (10,274 patients) performed between the years 1973 to 2004 met inclusion criteria. Antibiotic prophylaxis significantly decreased the risk for death when compared with placebo or no intervention (RR, 0.66 [95% CI 0.54 to 0.81]). The authors estimated the number needed to treat (NNT) in order to prevent 1 death from all causes as 60 (95% CI 34 to 268). Prophylaxis resulted in a significant decrease in the risk of infection-related death, RR 0.58 (95% CI 0.45 to 0.74) and in the occurrence of fever, RR 0.78 (95% CI 0.75 to 0.82). A reduction in mortality was also evident when the more recently conducted quinolone trials were analysed separately. Quinolone prophylaxis reduced the risk for all-cause mortality, RR 0.52 (95% CI, 0.37 to 0.84).


Our review demonstrated that prophylaxis significantly reduced all-cause mortality. The most significant reduction in mortality was observed in trials assessing prophylaxis with quinolones. The benefit demonstrated in our review outweighs harm, such as adverse effects, and development of resistance, since all-cause mortality is reduced. Since most trials in our review were of patients with haematologic cancer, prophylaxis, preferably with a quinolone, should be considered for these patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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