Infections after Stem Cell Transplant

Infection complications are one of the most serious side effects of stem cell transplant. Life-threatening infections can occur in approximately 30 percent of patients receiving allogeneic transplants; the incidence is lower for recipients of autologous transplants. Because the Transplant Program at St. Jude is concerned about infectious complications, recipients of allogeneic stem cell transplants undergo weekly screening for the presence of infectious organisms during their stay in the Transplant Unit while they reside in Memphis. In addition, patients are placed on prophylactic or preventive medications to reduce chances of infections. Recipients of allogeneic stem cell transplants are placed on a restricted or low-bacteria diet to minimize the chance of infection. Because patients who receive autologous transplants have an immune system that is not as weakened by conditioning regimen and post-transplantation therapy, these patients have no dietary restrictions in place. Bacterial, fungal and viral infections can make patients quite ill. Prompt investigation and, in some instances, surgical procedures are required to diagnose and treat these complications.