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Bacteremia following febrile neutropenia is a serious complication in children with malignancies. Preventive measures are currently targeted at antimicrobial prophylaxis, amelioration of drug-induced neutropenia, and nosocomial spread of pathogens, with little attention to community-acquired infections. A retrospective study was conducted at a pediatric oncology center during a 3-year period to identify probable cases of food-borne infections with bacteremia. Twenty-one bacteremic illnesses affecting 15 children receiving chemotherapy or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation were reviewed. Three (14%) episodes were highly suspected of a food-borne origin: a 17-year-old boy with osteosarcoma contracted Sphingomonas paucimobilis septicemia after consuming nasi lemak bought from a street hawker; a 2-year-old boy with acute lymphoblastic leukemia developed Chryseobacterium meningosepticum septicemia after a sushi dinner; a 2-year-old girl was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and Lactobacillus bacteremia suspected to be of probiotic origin. All of them were neutropenic at the time of the infections and the bacteremias were cleared with antibiotic treatment. Food-borne sepsis may be an important, but readily preventable, cause of bloodstream infections in pediatric oncology patients, especially in tropical countries with an abundance of culinary outlets.
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