Bacillus cereus causing fulminant sepsis and hemolysis in two patients with acute leukemia

Maha K. Arnaout, Robert F. Tamburro, Sara M. Bodner, John T. Sandlund, Gaston K. Rivera, Ching Hon Pui, Raul C. Ribeiro

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43 Scopus citations


Purpose: Hemolysis is so rarely associated with Bacillus cereus sepsis that only two very well documented cases have been reported. This article reports two unusual cases of Bacillus cereus sepsis with massive intravascular hemolysis in patients who had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Patients and Methods: A 20-year-old woman who was 9 weeks pregnant experienced a relapse of ALL. A therapeutic abortion was performed. During week 4 of reinduction the patient had abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, with severe neutropenia but no fever. Her condition deteriorated rapidly with cardiovascular collapse, acute massive intravascular hemolysis, and death within hours of the onset of symptoms. Blood cultures were positive for Bacillus cereus. Postmortem histologic examination and cultures revealed Bacillus cereus and Candida albicans in multiple organs. The second patient, a 10-year-old girl, presented with relapsed T-cell ALL. In the second week of reinduction, she had abdominal pain followed by hypotension. Again, no fever was noted. Laboratory studies showed intravascular hemolysis 12 hours after admission. Aggressive support was promptly initiated. Despite disseminated intravascular coagulation; cardiovascular, hepatic, and renal failure; and multiple intracerebral hypodense lesions believed to be infarcts, the patient recovered fully and resumed reinduction therapy. Conclusions: Bacillus cereus infection can have a fulminant clinical course that may be complicated by massive intravascular hemolysis. This pathogen should be suspected in immunosuppressed patients who experience gastrointestinal symptoms and should not be precluded by the absence of fever, especially if steroids such as dexamethasone are being given. Exchange transfusion may be lifesaving in Bacillus cereus septicemia associated with massive hemolysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-435
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of pediatric hematology/oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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