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Antibiotic reduces infection risk in leukemia patients

Dakota Cunningham, Sima Jeha, MD, and Joshua Wolf, MD

From left: Dakota Cunningham, Sima Jeha, MD, and Joshua Wolf, MD

St. Jude researchers recently identified that an antibiotic could greatly reduce the risk of infections in children who were beginning treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). There was no sign that the drug increased antibiotic resistance.

The early weeks of chemotherapy often lead to a drop in white blood cells. This problem leaves patients at risk for life-threatening infections. The St. Jude study was the largest yet to gauge the safety and effectiveness of preventive antibiotic therapy in these children.

Joshua Wolf, MD, and his colleagues found that preventive therapy with levofloxacin or other antibiotics reduced the odds of infection by 70 percent or more. Levofloxacin also reduced patients’ odds of infection with Clostridium difficile by at least 95 percent. This is important, because children with hospital-acquired C. difficile infection have a nearly seven-fold increased risk of death.

The findings were used to help design the infection prevention component of a new St. Jude clinical trial for children and adolescents with ALL.

A report on this research appeared in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Read the news release.

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