An existing antibiotic therapy used in adults has been found safe and effective for reducing the odds of infections in children during treatment for an acute leukemia condition.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia(ALL) is a cancer of the white blood cells, characterised by the overproduction and accumulation of cancerous, immature white blood cells.
Early weeks of chemotherapy often lead to a drop in white blood cells causing a condition known as neutropenia, which leaves patients at risk for life-threatening infections that can delay cancer treatment.
The findings showed that preventive therapy with antibiotic -- levofloxacin -- reduced the odds of infection, including fevers and bloodstream infections, by 70 per cent or more in leukemia patients with neutropenia during induction therapy.
"Prophylactic antibiotic therapy with levofloxacin is routine for at-risk adult ALL patients, but it has remained controversial in children," said lead author Joshua Wolf, from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee.
Physicians have also worried that proactive antibiotic treatment in children would promote drug resistance, particularly to antibiotics needed to treat life-threatening infection in patients who become infected.
Levofloxacin was also found to lead to a 95 per cent reduction in the patients' odds of antibiotic-associated infection with Clostridium difficile(C. difficile) -- the hospital-acquired infection associated with nearly seven-fold increased risk of death in children.
The results appeared in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
In addition, despite greater use of levofloxacin to prevent infections, researchers found no increase in antibiotic resistance.
"We are cautiously optimistic that any impact of levofloxacin on antibacterial resistance will be balanced by the reduction in use of other antibiotics, but long-term monitoring antibiotic resistance patterns in young ALL patients will be needed to prove this," Wolf added.