Burkholderia cepacia septicemia in a pediatric oncology patient: A pharmacotherapy challenge

Spencer H. Durham, Amy E. Lee, Chatchawin Assanasen

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OBJECTIVE: To discuss pharmacotherapy challenges encountered during treatment of a pediatric oncology patient with Burkholderia cepacia septicemia. CASE SUMMARY: An 11-year-old male with a history of aplastic anemia presented to the emergency department with a 1-day history of cough and purulent nasal discharge 6 months after undergoing bone marrow transplant. Blood cultures obtained from the patient's Broviac catheter revealed gram-negative rods. Piperacillin/ tazobactam and tobramycin were administered, but the patient worsened clinically, with fever and chills. B. cepacia was identified as the offending pathogen, and the therapy was changed to meropenem and ciprofloxacin, as piperacillin/ tazobactam and tobramycin are ineffective against Burkholderia spp. Intravenous trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, the drug of choice for Burkholderia spp. infections, was unavailable as it had been placed on national manufacturer backorder. The patient improved initially, but he later experienced recurrence of fever, and blood culture results were positive for Burkholderia spp. Infection was eradicated after removal of the central line and administration of ceftazidime and oral minocycline. DISCUSSION: Literature reveals few cases of B. cepacia in pediatric oncology patients, and to our knowledge, no cases have been reported in bone marrow transplant patients in the US. Burkholderia spp. is highly resistant to many antibiotics, and commonly used agents for the empiric treatment of febrile neutropenia are not active against this organism. This indicates that most oncology patients who present with this infection would not receive appropriate initial treatment. In addition, antibiotic therapy may need to be modified, based on drug availability. CONCLUSIONS: B. cepacia is an emerging multidrug-resistant pathogen that can produce severe infection in immunocompromised patients. It is pertinent to consider this organism in oncology patients who do not improve with standard therapy, as prompt use of correct pharmacotherapy is necessary to avoid serious morbidity as well as mortality in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e16
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012


  • Burkholderia
  • Immunocompromised
  • Pediatric
  • Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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