Bloodstream infection (BSI) is a significant complication following allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-SCT). Corticosteroids mask inflammatory responses, delaying the initiation of antibiotics. We reviewed medical records of 69 allo-SCT patients who had been on >0.5mg/kg prednisolone to investigate the efficacy of weekly surveillance blood cultures. A total of 36 patients (52%) had positive cultures, 25 definitive BSI and 11 probable BSI. Pathogens in definitive BSI were Staphylococcus epidermidis (n = 7), S. aureus (n = 4), Entrococcus faecalis (n = 3), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (n = 5), Acenitobacter Iwoffii (n = 4), and others (n = 10). The median interval from the initiation of corticosteroids to the first positive cultures was 24 days (range, 1-70). At the first positive cultures, 15 patients with definitive BSI were afebrile. Four of them remained afebrile throughout the period of positive surveillance cultures. Patients with afebrile BSI tended to be older (P = 0.063), and had in-dwelling central venous catheters less frequently than febrile patients (P < 0.0001). Bloodstream pathogens were directly responsible for death in two patients with afebrile BSI. This study demonstrates that cortisosteroid frequently masks inflammatory reactions in allo-SCT recipients given conrticosteroids, and that surveillance blood culture is only diagnostic clue for 'occult' BSI.
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