Febrile neutropenia in children treated for malignancy

J Infect. 2015 Jun;71 Suppl 1:S27-35. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2015.04.026. Epub 2015 Apr 25.


Febrile neutropenia (FN) in children treated for malignancy is a common and direct sequela of chemotherapy. Episodes of FN can be life-threatening, and demand prompt recognition, assessment and treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics. While in the majority of episodes no causal infection is identified, 10-20% are secondary to a bloodstream infection (BSI). A reduction in episodes of BSI could be achieved through robust infection prevention strategies, such as CVL care bundles. Alongside good antimicrobial stewardship, these strategies could reduce the risk of emergent, multi-drug resistant (MDR) infections. Emerging bacterial pathogens in BSI include Viridans Group Streptococci (VGS) and Enterobacteriaceae such as Klebsiella spp. which are known for their ability to carry MDR genes. There is also increased recognition of the role of invasive fungal infection (IFI) in FN, in particular with Aspergillus spp. Novel diagnostics, including multiplex blood and respiratory polymerase chain reaction assays can identify infections early in FN, facilitating targeted therapy, and reducing unnecessary antimicrobial exposure. Given appropriate, and sensitive rapid diagnostics, potential also exists to safely inform the risk assessment of patients with FN, identifying those at low risk of complication, who could be treated in the out-patient setting. Several clinical decision rules (CDR) have now been developed and validated in defined populations, for the risk assessment of children being treated for cancer. Future research is needed to develop a universal CDR to improve the management of children with FN.

Keywords: Febrile neutropaenia; Malignancy; Neutropenic sepsis; Paediatrics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chemotherapy-Induced Febrile Neutropenia*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Sepsis


  • Antineoplastic Agents