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Gram-Positive Infections and the Use of Vancomycin in 550 Episodes of Fever and Neutropenia

MARC RUBIN, M.D.; JAMES W. HATHORN, M.D.; DORIS MARSHALL, R.N.; JANET GRESS, R.N.; SETH M. STEINBERG, Ph.D.; and PHILIP A. PIZZO, M.D.
[+] Article and Author Information

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to Philip A. Pizzo, M.D.; PediatricBranch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Building 10, Room 13N240; Bethesda, MD 20892.


Bethesda, Maryland


Ann Intern Med. 1988;108(1):30-35. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-108-1-30
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Study Objective: To determine the appropriate role for vancomycin in neutropenic patients with cancer. To review the incidence, types, and outcome of gram-positive infections in a series of neutropenic patients with cancer.

Design: Retrospective review.

Setting: Inpatient units of the Medical and Pediatric Oncology Branches of the National Cancer Institute.

Patients: Five hundred and fifty consecutive episodes of fever and neutropenia in patients with cancer randomized prospectively on another study to receive either ceftazidime alone or combination antibiotics for initial empirical therapy.

Intervention: Intravenous vancomycin (dosage adjusted by serum levels).

Measurements and Main Results: Gram-positive organisms were the commonest of the bacterial pathogens isolated (63%). Of the 53 gram-positive organisms accounting for primary infections (isolated at initial presentation), there were 36 staphylococcal isolates (19 coagulase negative and 17 coagulasepositive), 13 streptococcal isolates (8 non-group D and 5 group D), and 4 polymicrobial isolates. Of the 22 secondary gram-positive infections (occurring after institution of initial antibiotics), there were 10 streptococcal isolates (9 group D and 1 non-group D), 7 staphylococcal isolates (6 coagulase-negative and 1 coagulase-positive), and 5 polymicrobial isolates. Vancomycin was used to treat 26 of the 53 primary infections, but was begun only after knowledge of the isolate in 25. Vancomycin was used to treat 17 of the 22 secondary infections, and begun only after knowledge of the isolate in 14. This approach resulted in no treatment failures for the primary infections, and a single microbiological failure for the secondary infections. There was a tendency towards a greater proportion of secondary gram-positive infections in the monotherapy group compared to the combination therapy group (16 of 282 compared with 6 of 268 respectively, P2 = 0.04 by the chi-squared test); but all were treated successfully.

Conclusion: Vancomycin need not be included in routine empirical therapy for febrile neutropenic patients, but should be added when clinical or microbiological data suggest the need.

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