Recent changes in bacteremia in patients with cancer: a systematic review of epidemiology and antibiotic resistance

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2013 Jul;32(7):841-50. doi: 10.1007/s10096-013-1819-7. Epub 2013 Jan 25.


Bacteremia remains a major cause of life-threatening complication in patients with cancer. Significant changes in the spectrum of microorganisms isolated from blood culture have been reported in cancer patients over the past years. The aim of our systematic review was to inventory the recent trends in epidemiology and antibiotic resistance of microorganisms causing bacteremia in cancer patients. Data for this review was identified by searches of Medline, Scopus and Cochrane Library for indexed articles and abstracts published in English since 2008. The principal search terms were: "antimicrobial resistance", "bacteremia", "bacterial epidemiology", "bloodstream infection", "cancer patients", "carbapenem resistance", "Escherichia coli resistance", "extended-spectrum β-lactamase producing E. coli", "febrile neutropenia", "fluoroquinolone resistance", "neutropenic cancer patient", "vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus", and "multidrug resistance". Boolean operators (NOT, AND, OR) were also used in succession to narrow and widen the search. Altogether, 27 articles were selected to be analyzed in the review. We found that Gram-negative bacteria were the most frequent pathogen isolated, particularly in studies with minimal use of antibiotic prophylaxis. Another important trend is the extensive emergence of antimicrobial-resistant strains associated with increased risk of morbidity, mortality and cost. This increasing incidence of antibiotic resistance has been reported in Gram-negative bacteria as well as in Gram-positive bacteria. This exhaustive review, reporting the recent findings in epidemiology and antibiotic resistance of bacteremia in cancer patients, highlights the necessity of local continuous surveillance of bacteremia and stringent enforcement of antibiotic stewardship programs in cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteremia / epidemiology*
  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Neoplasms / complications*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents