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Indian J Cancer. 2014 Oct-Dec;51(4):442-6. doi: 10.4103/0019-509X.175310.

Alarming prevalence of community-acquired multidrug-resistant organisms colonization in children with cancer and implications for therapy: A prospective study.

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Department of Paediatric Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.



Infection or colonization with multidrug-resistant organisms (MDRO) is associated with high mortality and morbidity. Knowledge of MDRO colonization may help in planning empirical antibiotic approach in neutropenic patients, which is known to improve patient outcomes. While routine cultures are positive and may help direct antibiotic therapy in only up to 15% neutropenic patients, surveillance cultures are positive in more than 90% of cancer patients.


To assess the rate of MDRO carrier status at presentation and rate of conversion to MDRO during the treatment.


Rectal swabs of all the outpatients presenting to pediatric oncology unit were sent within 7 days from date of registration from January 2014 to December 2014. Furthermore, stool cultures/rectal swabs of all patients who got directly admitted to the pediatric ward at presentation were sent within 24 h. Repeat rectal swabs were sent again for patients from this cohort when they got readmitted to the ward at least 15 days after last discharge or when clinically indicated.


Baseline surveillance rectal swabs were sent for 618 patients, which included 528 children with hematological malignancies and 90 children with solid tumors. Forty-five (7.3%) showed no growth. Of the remaining 573, 197 (34.4%) patients were colonized by two organisms and 30 (5.2%) by three organisms. Three hundred and thirty-four (58.4%) showed extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) Enterobacteriaceae, of which 165 (49.5%) were ESBL sensitive to beta-lactam with beta-lactamase inhibitors combinations and 169 (50.5%) were resistant to combinations. One hundred and sixteen (20.2%) were carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) and 65 (11.4%) had vancomycin-resistant enterococci in baseline cultures. Only 63 (21%) patients were colonized by a sensitive organism in their baseline surveillance cultures. Morbidity (Intensive Care Unit stay) and mortality was higher in patients colonized by MDR organisms. There was a significant correlation between the place of residence and CRE colonization status with the highest rate (60%) of CRE colonization observed in children from East India. The repeat cultures showed the further conversion of sensitive isolates to MDRO in 80% of these children, of which 40% each converted from non-ESBL and non-CRE to ESBL and CRE, respectively.


This is the first study illustrating the alarming high prevalence of community-acquired MDRO colonization, especially CRE, which has grave implications for therapy for children with cancer potentially compromising delivery of aggressive chemotherapy and affecting outcomes. This incidence further increases during the course of treatment. Knowing the baseline colonization also guides us for the planning of chemotherapy as well as antibiotic approach and infection control strategies. Local antibiotics stewardship including education of the healthcare workers as well as national level interventions to prevent antibiotic misuse in the community is critical to minimize this problem.

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