Effect of Levofloxacin Prophylaxis on Bacteremia in Children With Acute Leukemia or Undergoing Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation: A Randomized Clinical Trial | Stem Cell Transplantation | JAMA | JAMA Network
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Figure.  Study Participation and Flow Through the Triala
Study Participation and Flow Through the Triala

aNo information regarding those approached was available. The total number of patients assessed for participation and reasons for exclusion were not collected.

Table 1.  Baseline Characteristics and Covariates With Potential to Affect Risk of Infection of the Study Patients by Group (N = 617)
Baseline Characteristics and Covariates With Potential to Affect Risk of Infection of the Study Patients by Group (N = 617)
Table 2.  Comparison of Bacteremia Incidence per Patient During the Infection Observation Period and Bacteremia Rate per 1000 Patient-Days Between Randomized Groups for Acute Leukemia and HSCT Groups (N = 613)
Comparison of Bacteremia Incidence per Patient During the Infection Observation Period and Bacteremia Rate per 1000 Patient-Days Between Randomized Groups for Acute Leukemia and HSCT Groups (N = 613)
Table 3.  Secondary Outcomes for All Patients by Allocation Among All Patients
Secondary Outcomes for All Patients by Allocation Among All Patients
Table 4.  Development of New Resistance to Specific Agents in Bacteria Colonizing the Stool
Development of New Resistance to Specific Agents in Bacteria Colonizing the Stool
Table 5.  Post hoc Outcomes for All Patients by Allocation Among All Patients
Post hoc Outcomes for All Patients by Allocation Among All Patients
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Original Investigation
September 11, 2018

Effect of Levofloxacin Prophylaxis on Bacteremia in Children With Acute Leukemia or Undergoing Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Author Affiliations
  • 1The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • 3St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee
  • 4University of California, San Francisco, Benioff Children's Hospital, San Francisco
  • 5Children's Oncology Group, Monrovia, California
  • 6University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
  • 7City of Hope, Duarte, California
  • 8Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
  • 9Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, Florida
  • 10Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Egleston, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 11McMaster Children's Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  • 12Child Health Evaluation Sciences, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
JAMA. 2018;320(10):995-1004. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.12512
Key Points

Question  Is levofloxacin effective in preventing bacteremia in children receiving intensive chemotherapy or undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplants?

Findings  In this randomized clinical trial that included 195 children with acute leukemia and 418 children undergoing stem cell transplants, the likelihood of bacteremia in those receiving levofloxacin prophylaxis compared with no prophylaxis was 21.9% vs 43.4% for patients with acute leukemia (a significant difference) and 11.0% vs 17.3% for patients undergoing stem cell transplantation (nonsignificant difference).

Meaning  Levofloxacin prophylaxis significantly reduced the risk of bacteremia in children with acute leukemia receiving intensive chemotherapy but not in those undergoing stem cell transplantation.

Abstract

Importance  Bacteremia causes considerable morbidity among children with acute leukemia and those undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). There are limited data on the effect of antibiotic prophylaxis in children.

Objective  To determine the efficacy and risks of levofloxacin prophylaxis in children receiving intensive chemotherapy for acute leukemia or undergoing HSCT.

Design, Setting, and Participants  In this multicenter, open-label, randomized trial, patients (6 months-21 years) receiving intensive chemotherapy were enrolled (September 2011-April 2016) in 2 separate groups—acute leukemia, consisting of acute myeloid leukemia or relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and HSCT recipients—at 76 centers in the United States and Canada, with follow-up completed September 2017.

Interventions  Patients with acute leukemia were randomized to receive levofloxacin prophylaxis for 2 consecutive cycles of chemotherapy (n = 100) or no prophylaxis (n = 100). Those undergoing HSCT were randomized to receive levofloxacin prophylaxis during 1 HSCT procedure (n = 210) or no prophylaxis (n = 214).

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcome was the occurrence of bacteremia during 2 chemotherapy cycles (acute leukemia) or 1 transplant procedure (HSCT). Secondary outcomes included fever and neutropenia, severe infection, invasive fungal disease, Clostridium difficile–associated diarrhea, and musculoskeletal toxic effects.

Results  A total of 624 patients, 200 with acute leukemia (median [interquartile range {IQR}] age, 11 years [6-15 years]; 46% female) and 424 undergoing HSCT (median [IQR] age, 7 years [3-14]; 38% female), were enrolled. Among 195 patients with acute leukemia, the likelihood of bacteremia was significantly lower in the levofloxacin prophylaxis group than in the control group (21.9% vs 43.4%; risk difference, 21.6%; 95% CI, 8.8%-34.4%, P = .001), whereas among 418 patients undergoing HSCT, the risk of bacteremia was not significantly lower in the levofloxacin prophylaxis group (11.0% vs 17.3%; risk difference, 6.3%; 95% CI, 0.3%-13.0%; P = .06). Fever and neutropenia were less common in the levofloxacin group (71.2% vs 82.1%; risk difference, 10.8%; 95% CI, 4.2%-17.5%; P = .002). There were no significant differences in severe infection (3.6% vs 5.9%; risk difference, 2.3%; 95% CI, −1.1% to 5.6%; P = .20), invasive fungal disease (2.9% vs 2.0%; risk difference, −1.0%; 95% CI, −3.4% to 1.5%, P = .41), C difficile–associated diarrhea (2.3% vs 5.2%; risk difference, 2.9%; 95% CI, −0.1% to 5.9%; P = .07), or musculoskeletal toxic effects at 2 months (11.4% vs 16.3%; risk difference, 4.8%; 95% CI, −1.6% to 11.2%; P = .15) or at 12 months (10.1% vs 14.4%; risk difference, 4.3%; 95% CI, −3.4% to 12.0%; P = .28) between the levofloxacin and control groups.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among children with acute leukemia receiving intensive chemotherapy, receipt of levofloxacin prophylaxis compared with no prophylaxis resulted in a significant reduction in bacteremia. However, there was no significant reduction in bacteremia for levofloxacin prophylaxis among children undergoing HSCT.

Introduction

Bacteremia is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children receiving intensive chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and for those undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).1-3 The use of prophylactic antibiotics in adult patients with neutropenia secondary to cancer therapy is supported by meta-analyses of randomized trials demonstrating decreased risk of infections confirmed by blood cultures and death.4 Data describing prophylactic antibiotics in children with cancer are limited to several small single-group observational studies.5-10

The adoption of antibacterial prophylaxis is tempered by potential negative consequences including Clostridium difficile–associated diarrhea, bacterial resistance, and musculoskeletal toxicities.11-13 A randomized trial involving children is required to understand the benefits and risks of prophylaxis. The primary objective was to determine whether prophylactic levofloxacin during neutropenia decreased the risk of bacteremia in children with acute leukemia or undergoing HSCT. The secondary objectives included the evaluation of potential adverse effects and outcomes associated with prophylaxis.

Methods
Study Design

This was a multicenter, randomized, open-label phase 3 trial (ACCL0934) conducted by the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). The protocol and all amendments were approved by the National Cancer Institute’s Central Institutional Review Board and the institutional review boards at each of the 76 participating institutions (the protocol and statistical analysis plan are available in Supplement 1). Written informed consent and assent (if appropriate) were obtained from participants or their guardians.

Patients

Patients aged 6 months to 21 years were enrolled into 2 groups: (1) the acute leukemia group, in which patients were anticipated to receive at least 2 consecutive cycles of intensive chemotherapy and (2) the HSCT group, in which patients were anticipated to receive a myeloablative autologous or allogeneic HSCT. Eligible leukemia diagnoses included any AML (de novo, relapsed, or secondary AML, and acute leukemia of ambiguous lineage treated with standard AML therapy), or relapsed ALL. Intensive chemotherapy and myeloablative HSCT were defined as regimens anticipated to cause neutropenia for more than 7 days. Additional eligibility criteria were adequate renal function and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 2 or less. Exclusion criteria were previous participation in this trial, allergy to quinolones, chronic active arthritis, known pathological prolongation of the QTc, pregnant or breast feeding, and treatment with systemic antibacterial agents with the exception of Pneumocystis jiroveci prophylaxis. Race/ethnicity data were collected according to the National Institutes of Health inclusion policy. These categorizations were determined by institutional investigators based on fixed categories.

Randomization and Blinding

Randomization was performed separately in the acute leukemia and HSCT groups. Patients were randomized 1:1 at enrollment to receive levofloxacin prophylaxis (intervention group) or no antibiotic prophylaxis (control group). The allocation sequence was generated by the COG trial management system and the sequence was concealed to all investigators, clinicians, and participants. Stratification factors were AML vs relapsed ALL and autologous vs allogeneic HSCT among the patients with acute leukemia and those undergoing HSCT, respectively. Randomization was conducted in block sizes of 4; block size was not available in the protocol and was not disclosed to the study personnel, sites investigators, research associates, or participants. The study was open label, so clinicians and participants were aware of treatment allocation.

Procedures

Supportive care was dictated by each institution’s policies. Available to each site were the COG-endorsed guideline for the management of fever and neutropenia14 that includes a strong recommendation to obtain blood cultures at the onset of fever and neutropenia. Specimens were processed and reported by local microbiology laboratories.

Intervention Group

For children with acute leukemia, levofloxacin was administered during 2 consecutive cycles of chemotherapy starting on day 1 of systemic therapy. The study was amended on December 16, 2013, to start levofloxacin on day 3 to facilitate patient recruitment. For children undergoing HSCT, levofloxacin was administered during 1 transplant procedure starting on day negative 2 from stem cell infusion. Prophylaxis continued until the first of the following events occurred: absolute neutrophil count (ANC) of more than 200/μL after nadir, day 60, or initiation of the next chemotherapy cycle. Levofloxacin was held if parenteral antibacterial therapy was administered for any reason, such as empirical antibiotics for fever and neutropenia. Levofloxacin dosing for those older than 6 months to those younger than 5 years was 10 mg/kg twice daily and for those older than 5 years was 10 mg/kg once daily (maximum, 750 mg/d). Levofloxacin was given orally or intravenously (if not tolerated orally) with the same dose and schedule.

Control Group

No levofloxacin prophylaxis was administered.

Evaluations

The infection observation period was identical for both groups. For patients with acute leukemia, it began on day 1 (preamendment) or day 3 (postamendment) of each chemotherapy cycle. For patients undergoing HSCT, it began on day negative 2 prior to stem cell infusion. The infection observation period ended when the first of the following events occurred: ANC of more than 200 cells/μL after nadir, day 60, or initiation of the next cycle of chemotherapy.

During the infection observation period, all positive sterile-site bacterial cultures were submitted in addition to data related to secondary outcomes. Potential covariates collected were duration of ANC of less than 200 cells/μL, administration of prophylactic granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, central venous catheter ethanol or antibacterial lock therapy, chlorhexidine bathing, and systemic steroid exposure.

Data for predefined musculoskeletal disorders were collected at baseline and at 2 and 12 months following completion of the final infection observation period. Musculoskeletal assessment was performed by an individual blinded to treatment allocation with a data collection tool focused on tendinopathy, arthritis, arthralgia, and gait abnormalities.

Antibiotic susceptibility of all sterile site isolates was collected from institutional clinical laboratory reports. An ancillary study with optional participation described the change in resistance patterns for specific pathogens colonizing the intestinal tract by randomized groups. Perirectal or stool specimens were collected at baseline and at completion of each infection observation period using Dacron-tipped culture swabs and were shipped to a central laboratory where each swab was streaked onto colistin nalidixic acid agar and then onto MacConkey agar. Plates were incubated at 37°C for 24 to 48 hours. Susceptibility of Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates to cefepime, imipenem, and levofloxacin, and susceptibility of Streptococcus mitis to cefepime, levofloxacin, and penicillin were determined using Clinical Laboratories Standards Institute criteria.15

In terms of adverse events, all Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE)16 grade 4 nonhematological and grade 5 (fatal) events were submitted from enrollment to 30 days following the final infection observation period.

Outcomes
Primary Outcome

The primary outcome was centrally adjudicated true bacteremia. All positive sterile-site bacterial cultures were reviewed by a panel of 3 committee members (S.A., B.T.F., A.H.G., or L.S.) blinded to treatment allocation. Contaminant bacteria were defined as single occurrences of organisms included on the National Healthcare Safety Network–Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list of common commensals.17 The common commensal list was modified to exclude viridans group streptococci,18 given their known association with sepsis syndrome in this population. Multiple positive cultures for common commensals were considered true bacteremia events if the second culture occurred on the same or subsequent day. True bacteremia was defined as bacteremia not meeting contaminant criteria.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary outcomes included (1) fever and neutropenia, (2) severe infection and death from bacterial infection, (3) invasive fungal disease, (4) C difficile–associated diarrhea, (5) prespecified musculoskeletal conditions, and (6) resistance patterns of bacterial isolates from all sterile-site cultures and from perirectal or stool swabs.

Fever and neutropenia was defined as ANC of less than 1000 cells/μL and a single temperature of 38.3°C or higher or a sustained temperature of 38°C or higher for more than 1 hour. Severe infection was defined as any CTCAE grade 4 or 5 infection or infestation including bacterial, nonbacterial, and clinically documented infections. Invasive fungal disease was defined as microbiologically or pathologically proven disease.19C difficileassociated diarrhea was defined as an assay that tested positive for C difficile concurrent with grade 2 or higher diarrhea by CTCAE criteria. Predefined musculoskeletal conditions were arthralgia, arthritis, gait disturbance, tendinopathy, and tendon rupture. In terms of antibiotic resistance, intermediate susceptibility was classified as resistant for analysis. A specimen that did not yield 1 of the 4 organisms evaluated on culture was considered to lack resistance for that organism.

Post hoc Outcomes

Post hoc outcomes were (1) total days of fever of 38°C or higher, (2) days of hospitalization, (3) days of antifungal therapy, (4) positive C difficile assay results, and (5) total antibiotic exposure days and any exposure stratified by antibiotic class or spectrum of activity (gram-positive agents, aminoglycosides, third- or fourth-generation cephalosporins, and antibiotics commonly used for empirical therapy for fever and neutropenia).

Adverse Events

Serious adverse events were defined as any grade 4 toxicity that was unexpected and possibly, probably, or definitely related to levofloxacin and all grade 5 toxicities.

Statistical Analysis

The study was designed and powered for separate analyses of the acute leukemia and HSCT groups for the primary outcome. Power calculations assumed a baseline risk of true bacteremia of 30% in the control group and a minimal clinically important difference of 50% relative risk reduction (15% risk reduction) based on the findings of a large study of levofloxacin prophylaxis in adult patients with cancer who had received intensive chemotherapy.20 Assuming 84% power and 2-sided α of .05, 266 evaluable patients would need to be enrolled to each of group. The protocol was amended in March 2014 to increase the planned enrollment of the HSCT group based on interim data released from the data and safety monitoring committee that the observed bacteremia rate in the HSCT control group was lower than anticipated. The revised calculation assumed 20% true bacteremia rate in the control group and 80% power resulting in a total anticipated sample size of 400 evaluable patients undergoing HSCT. Consequently, planned enrollment was 266 patients with acute leukemia and 400 patients undergoing HSCT (666 total).

All analyses were modified intention to treat for which ineligible patients and patients who withdrew consent prior to the start of the first infection observation period were not included. Missing data were handled using available case analysis.

Primary Analysis

The proportion of patients with at least 1 true bacteremia episode during the infection observation period(s) was compared between randomized groups using the χ2 test.

Interim monitoring of the primary outcome was performed twice when approximately one-third and two-thirds of patients (separately for acute leukemia and HSCT groups) were enrolled and evaluated. Efficacy monitoring boundary values were based on Lan-DeMets α spending function alpha t2. The spending all α method21 was used to adjust the P values for the final analysis (.046 and .038 for acute leukemia and HSCT groups, respectively). To determine if the treatment effect differed between groups, logistic regression was conducted with the 2 groups combined and a test for interaction was performed between treatment and patient group.

Secondary Analyses

Patients with acute leukemia and those undergoing HSCT were combined into a single cohort for analyses of all secondary outcomes. Given that there was no adjustment for multiple comparison, the secondary analyses were considered exploratory. Fever and neutropenia, severe infection, invasive fungal disease, C difficile–associated diarrhea, and predefined musculoskeletal conditions were binary variables consisting of at least 1 occurrence of these events in either of the 2 chemotherapy cycles or the 1 HSCT procedure (or at 2 and 12 months for musculoskeletal conditions).

The effects of levofloxacin on these outcomes were assessed via the Wald test from logistic regression models adjusted for group (acute leukemia vs HSCT). No prophylaxis was the reference level. The proportion of patients who developed new resistance to specific agents in bacteria identified from the perirectal or stool swabs was compared between groups using the χ2 test or Fisher exact test. For these analyses, a 2-sided P value <.05 was considered statistically significant.

Post hoc Analyses

For the primary outcome, Poisson regression compared the number of true bacteremia events in the 2 study groups accounting for exposure days during the infection observation period(s) as the offset. The model assumed that events occurred independently and the event rate was constant. Mixed-effects modeling of the primary outcome with site as a random effect was also conducted.

Post hoc outcomes were total days of fever, days of hospitalization, days of antifungal therapy, C difficile–positive test result, total exposure days, and any exposure to antibiotics stratified by antibiotic class or spectrum of activity. The effects of levofloxacin on these outcomes were assessed via the Wald test from logistic regression models (for binary outcomes) and Poisson regression models (for duration outcomes), adjusted for group (acute leukemia vs HSCT). No prophylaxis was the reference level. For these analyses, a 2-sided P value <.05 was considered statistically significant.

Results

A total of 624 patients, 200 with acute leukemia and 424 undergoing HSCT, were enrolled and randomized between September 2011 and April 2016 (Figure). Data current to September 30, 2017, were used in this article. By this date, all patients had completed the final study end point, the musculoskeletal 12-month posttherapy evaluation. Seven patients were ineligible because they had received systemic antibiotics at the time of enrollment and 4 were unevaluable because of withdrawal of consent prior to the start of the first infection observation period. In October 2016, the COG data and safety monitoring committee recommended early termination of the study because the second planned interim analysis of the acute leukemia group demonstrated efficacy of levofloxacin prophylaxis. At the time, the target enrollment to the HSCT group had been reached. Thus, 195 patients with acute leukemia (96 randomized to levofloxacin and 99 to control group) and 418 patients undergoing HSCT (210 randomized to levofloxacin and 208 randomized to control group) were included in the modified intention-to-treat analyses.

Characteristics of all eligible patients are described in Table 1. Within each group, baseline characteristics of the intervention and control patients were similar. Further details regarding diagnosis, chemotherapy, HSCT conditioning and graft-vs-host-disease prophylaxis are in eTables 1 and 2 in Supplement 2. The mean (SD) duration of levofloxacin for the prophylaxis and no prophylaxis groups were 14.6 (1.0) and 0.3 (0.2) days per 30 days at risk for the acute leukemia group and 13.8 (0.8) and 0.4 (0.2) days per 30 days at risk for the HSCT group.

Primary Outcome

Of the 195 patients with acute leukemia, 14 (7%) were observed for only 1 cycle of chemotherapy, whereas 181 (93%) were observed for 2 cycles. Among all 195 patients with acute leukemia, the likelihood of bacteremia was significantly lower in the levofloxacin prophylaxis group than in the control group (21.9% vs 43.4%; risk difference, 21.6%; 95% CI, 8.8%-34.4%; P = .001) (Table 2). For patients undergoing HSCT, there was no significant difference in the likelihood of bacteremia in the levofloxacin prophylaxis group compared with the control group (11.0% vs 17.3%; risk difference, 6.3; 95% CI, 0.3-13.0; P = .06).

There was no significant interaction between group (acute leukemia vs HSCT) and assigned treatment (levofloxacin vs no levofloxacin) (odds ratio, 0.62; 95% CI, 0.27-1.44; P = .27). When all patients were combined, levofloxacin significantly reduced the likelihood of bacteremia (risk difference, 11.4%; 95% CI, 5.1%-17.6%, P < .001).

Among the 123 bacteremia episodes, there were 136 organisms identified (eTable 3 in Supplement 2). Viridans group streptococci represented the most common cultured organisms in both the acute leukemia and HSCT groups.

Secondary Outcomes

Table 3 shows that patients in the levofloxacin prophylaxis group were less likely to have fever and neutropenia (71.2% vs 82.1%; risk difference, 10.8%; 95% CI, 4.2%-17.5%; P = .002) without a significant difference in the likelihood of having severe infection (3.6% vs 5.9%; risk difference, 2.3%; 95% CI, −1.1% to 5.6%; P = .20). There were no deaths attributed to bacterial infection in either group. There were no significant differences in invasive fungal disease (2.9% vs 2.0%; risk difference, −1.0%; 95% CI, −3.4% to 1.5%%; P = .41), C difficile–associated diarrhea (2.3% vs 5.2%; risk difference, 2.9%; 95% CI, −0.1% to 5.9%; P = .07) or musculoskeletal toxic effects at 2 months (11.4% vs 16.3%; risk difference, 4.8%; 95% CI, −1.6% to 11.2%; P = .15) or 12 months (10.1% vs 14.4%; risk difference, 4.3%; 95% CI, −3.4% to 12.0%; P = .28) between the levofloxacin and control groups.

Susceptibility testing results for levofloxacin were available for a minority of bacteremia isolates. In the levofloxacin prophylaxis group, 5 of 25 viridans group streptococcal isolates were tested for levofloxacin sensitivity and all 5 showed resistance, whereas in the control group, 8 of 39 viridans group streptococcal isolates were tested and all 8 were sensitive. In the levofloxacin prophylaxis group, 3 of 9 E coli, Pseudomonas species or Klebsiella species isolates were tested for levofloxacin sensitivity and all 3 showed resistance. In the control group, 9 of 21 of these 3 organisms were tested for levofloxacin sensitivity; 7 were sensitive and 2 were resistant.

Table 4 shows the acquisition of resistance from baseline to follow-up for selected perirectal or stool swab organisms. The proportion with newly detected resistance to any of the selected pathogens was low and not significantly different between the levofloxacin prophylaxis and control groups for either patients with acute leukemia (5 of 43 vs 7 of 45; risk difference, 3.9; 95% CI, −10.4 to 18.2; P = .59) or those undergoing HSCT (4 of 118 vs 4 of 120, risk difference, 0.6; 95% CI, −4.5 to 4.6; P = .98).

Post hoc Analyses and Outcomes

To account for time at risk, a post hoc analysis of the primary outcome using Poisson regression was completed. Patients with acute leukemia without a second cycle of chemotherapy were censored at the completion of their first chemotherapy cycle observation period. Among the patients with acute leukemia, levofloxacin prophylaxis significantly reduced the likelihood of bacteremic episodes (4.9 vs 9.4 bacteremias per 1000 patient-days; rate difference, 4.3; 95% CI, 1.3-7.4; P = .008). Among the patients undergoing HSCT, levofloxacin prophylaxis also significantly reduced the likelihood of bacteremic episodes (5.3 vs 10.0 bacteremias per 1000 patient days; rate difference, 5.2; 95% CI, 1.1-9.3; P = .02) (Table 2).

The comparison of bacteremia incidence with mixed-effects modeling with site as a random effect had results similar to the primary analysis. In this analysis, the estimated bacteremia probability for patients with acute leukemia receiving levofloxacin vs no prophylaxis was 21.0% vs 43.8%, respectively (risk difference, 22.8%; 95% CI, 12.1%-38.8%, P = .002). For patients undergoing HSCT the estimated bacteremia probability for patients randomized to levofloxacin vs no prophylaxis was 9.0% vs 14.5%, respectively (risk difference, 5.5%; 95% CI, 0.3%-55.5%, P = .07).

In terms of post hoc outcomes, the mean duration of fever was significantly lower with levofloxacin prophylaxis (4.0 days; 95% CI, 3.6-4.6 vs 5.1 days; 95% CI, 4.6-5.6; rate difference, 1.0; 95% CI, 0.6-1.3; P = .004) (Table 5), whereas the mean duration of hospitalization was not significantly different between groups (26.1 days; 95% CI, 24.9-27.3 vs 25.7 days, 95% CI 24.4-27.1; rate difference, 0.3; 95% CI, −0.4 to 1.1; P = .97). The mean duration of antifungal therapy was similar between the levofloxacin prophylaxis and no prophylaxis groups (18.9 days; 95% CI, 17.6-20.4 vs 18.6 days; 95% CI, 17.3-20.1; rate difference, 0.3; 95% CI, −0.4 to 1.0; P = >.99). Patients in the levofloxacin group were less likely to have a positive test result for C difficile (7.8% vs 14.0%; risk difference, 6.2; 95% CI, 1.3-11.1; P = .02) than those in the control group.

Table 5 also shows both total duration of exposure and any exposure to aminoglycosides, third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins and antibiotics commonly used for empirical therapy for fever and neutropenia were lower in the levofloxacin group compared with the no prophylaxis group.

Adverse Events

Grade 4 nonhematologic and all grade 5 adverse event rates were low (<5% in all categories) and were similar in the patients in the levofloxacin and no prophylaxis groups. There were 23 serious adverse events reported in 8 patients. Eight of these were considered unrelated to levofloxacin and 3 were considered unlikely to be related to levofloxacin. The remaining adverse events occurred in 2 patients. A patient had grade 4 acute kidney injury, capillary leak, pulmonary edema, and respiratory failure considered probably related to HSCT and possibly related to levofloxacin. A second patient had grade 4 agitation, anxiety, confusion, delirium, delusion, hallucinations, personality change, and psychosis. These changes were considered possibly related to levofloxacin and possibly related to an anxiety disorder complicated by insomnia in the context of HSCT. No deaths were considered related to levofloxacin.

Discussion

In this multicenter randomized trial, levofloxacin prophylaxis significantly reduced the likelihood of bacteremia in children being treated for AML or relapsed ALL whereas levofloxacin prophylaxis did not significantly reduce the likelihood of bacteremia in children undergoing HSCT. The observed risk reduction was similar to findings from adult studies.20

Bacteremia was chosen as the primary outcome because it is associated with sepsis, infection-related mortality and increased health care utilization. Consequently, this outcome is meaningful to both clinicians and patients. While bacteremia may also delay subsequent cancer-direct therapy, this end point was not collected because the decision to initiate the next cycle of chemotherapy is influenced by many factors. Levofloxacin prophylaxis was effective at reducing the risk of bacteremia among patients with acute leukemia but not among patients undergoing HSCT. It is possible that the effect was similar in the 2 groups but that there was reduced power to detect a significant difference related to fewer events among patients undergoing HSCT. Fewer events may be explained, in part, by a shorter duration of neutropenia in the HSCT group. This hypothesis is supported by the lack of statistical interaction by treatment and group and the similar effect size in the post hoc Poisson regression, which takes into account time at risk. However, it is also plausible that the leukemia and HSCT groups had different supportive care measures or were infected with pathogens that had differential sensitivity to levofloxacin resulting in different efficacy of levofloxacin in the 2 groups.

The finding that positive C difficile test results were less common among levofloxacin prophylaxis recipients builds on a similar observation noted in a single-center study involving pediatric patients with ALL.9 Exposure to antibacterial agents has been previously identified as a risk factor for C difficile–associated diarrhea.22,23 The decrease in positive C difficile tests may be due to less therapeutic antimicrobial exposure in the prophylaxis group.

Acquisition of antibiotic resistance is an important potential negative consequence of antibiotic prophylaxis.24 In this short-term follow-up period, increased acquisition of resistance in S mitis, E coli, K pneumonia, and P aeruginosa isolates was not found. It is possible that an effect of prophylaxis on resistance was counterbalanced by a decrease in therapeutic antibiotic exposures.

Pathogens detected during bacteremia events for patients randomized to prophylaxis were frequently resistant to levofloxacin. Adult studies have described an increase in fluoroquinolone resistance among pathogens identified during breakthrough bacteremia.25 These findings suggest that patients receiving levofloxacin prophylaxis who develop fever and neutropenia should not receive an empirical antibiotic regimen that relies on fluoroquinolones.

Quinolone exposure is associated with risks of musculoskeletal adverse effects including tendinitis and tendinopathy.13 Unique to children is the concern for quinolone-related arthropathy. Arthropathy was described in juvenile beagles exposed to fluoroquinolones.26 A study of the musculoskeletal toxicity assessed by parent report in children randomized to receive levofloxacin or an alternate antibiotic for otitis media or community-acquired pneumonia found that musculoskeletal disorders (primarily arthralgia) were significantly more common in patients treated with levofloxacin at 1 year after exposure, although in longer-term follow-up, the symptoms had resolved.27,28 In this study, systematic assessment for musculoskeletal conditions did not identify a difference in the reported rates of musculoskeletal conditions between randomized groups, although the study was not powered to detect a significant difference.

Levofloxacin prophylaxis decreased the likelihood of bacteremia among patients with acute leukemia. However, there were still many viridans group streptococcal and gram-negative bacteremias in the prophylaxis group. This finding suggests that levofloxacin prophylaxis will not eliminate the risk of these important infections. Failure to eliminate infections may be related to spectrum of activity, lack of absorption in those receiving oral levofloxacin, or poor adherence. Other interventions will likely need to be combined with levofloxacin prophylaxis to further decrease bacteremia risk.

This study evaluated prophylaxis in pediatric patients receiving therapy for AML or relapsed ALL or undergoing HSCT. Further study is required to assess the utility of levofloxacin prophylaxis on the largest group of pediatric patients with leukemia, those undergoing primary therapy for ALL.

Limitations

This study has several limitations. First, the study was open-label. Knowledge of allocation could have affected patient care decisions. Second, this study evaluated short-term prophylaxis and the effect of longer-term prophylaxis requires further study. Third, detection of resistant bacteria colonizing the stool included a limited number of pathogens, and the evaluation of levofloxacin sensitivity results for pathogens isolated from blood cultures was completed on a minority of isolates. Fourth, invasive fungal disease was defined as microbiologically or pathologically proven infection. Episodes of possible fungal disease based on clinical or radiographic findings were not included; thus, the frequency of invasive fungal disease may have been underestimated. This potential for reduced capture of invasive fungal disease could have limited the detection of an association between levofloxacin and this outcome. Fifth, because the cohort of patients with acute leukemia was terminated early for efficacy, the effect of levofloxacin may have been overestimated. Sixth, fixed-block size and unblinded allocation can lead to biased participant selection. However, personnel at enrolling centers and study committee members were not aware of block size, thus minimizing this risk.

Conclusions

Among children with acute leukemia receiving intensive chemotherapy, receipt of levofloxacin prophylaxis compared with no prophylaxis resulted in a significant reduction in bacteremia. However, there was no significant reduction in bacteremia for levofloxacin prophylaxis among children undergoing HSCT.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Sarah Alexander, MD, Division of Haematology/Oncology, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Ave, Toronto, ON, M5G1X8, Canada (sarah.alexander@sickkids.ca).

Accepted for Publication: August 3, 2018.

Correction: This article was corrected July 2, 2019, to fix data errors in the Figure and in Tables 2 and 3.

Author Contributions: Dr Dang had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: Alexander, B. T. Fisher, Gaur, Dvorak, Chen, Green, Nieder, Bailey, Wiernikowski, Sung.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Alexander, B. T. Fisher, Gaur, Dvorak, Villa Luna, Dang, Green, Nieder, B. Fisher, Bailey, Wiernikowski, Sung.

Drafting of the manuscript: Alexander, Gaur, Dvorak, Villa Luna, Nieder, Sung.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Alexander, B. T. Fisher, Gaur, Dvorak, Dang, Chen, Green, Nieder, B. Fisher, Bailey, Wiernikowski, Sung.

Statistical analysis: B. T. Fisher, Villa Luna, Dang, Chen.

Obtained funding: Alexander, Sung.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Green, Nieder, Bailey, Wiernikowski.

Supervision: Alexander, Gaur, Green.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest. Dr Green reported that he consults for Bristol-Myers Squibb and Chimerix Inc and has received grant support from the Children’s Oncology Group. Dr Nieder reported that he has served on the Jazz Pharmaceuticals speaker’s bureau. Dr Sung reported receiving grant support from the Children’s Oncology Group. No other disclosures were reported.

Funding/Support: This research was supported by grants U10CA095861 from the Community Clinical Oncology Program, U10CA095861 from National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program Research Base Grant (awarded to the Children’s Oncology Group), and funding from the Biomarker, Imaging, and HHSN261200800001E from the Quality of Life Studies Program, which is supported by the National Cancer Institute.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: The National Cancer Institute was the study sponsor, and it reviewed and approved the protocol and integrated study. Apart from the data and safety monitoring board, the study sponsor did not have a role in the conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Additional Contributions: We thank Karen Barbadora, BS, and Craig Boge, MPH (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) for administrative assistance with the bacterial resistance aim and Austin Hamm, BA, Bayrta Prosvirova, MS, Mary Bancroft, BA (Children’s Oncology Group), for their assistance in data management. All were compensated for their contributions.

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