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Clinical Review Evidence based case report

Use of antibiotics in suspected haemolytic-uraemic syndrome

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 17 February 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:409
  1. Bob Phillips (, specialist registrar in paediatrics1,
  2. Kay Tyerman, consultant paediatric nephrologist1,
  3. Simon M Whiteley, consultant paediatric intensivist1
  1. 1 Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, St James's Hospital, Leeds LS9 7TF
  1. Correspondence to: B Phillips


    An 11 year old girl was admitted to our specialist paediatric intensive care unit under the joint care of paediatric intensivists and nephrologists. She had presented to her local hospital with a four day history of vomiting, diarrhoea, and becoming progressively more unwell. Initial blood tests showed acute renal failure and thrombocytopenia. We tentatively diagnosed haemolytic uraemic syndrome, although sepsis with renal dysfunction was part of the differential. These uncertainties arose because her blood film was not typical of haemolytic uraemic syndrome, she had a clotting abnormality, and we had no microbiological confirmation. Treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics was proposed. Some doubt remained about this treatment, however, because of a well publicised study suggesting that giving antibiotics to patients with Escherichia coli 0157:H7 enteritis could worsen haemolytic uraemic syndrome. We used a five step evidence based approach to address this problem.

    Formulate the question

    The first step in our approach was to formulate an answerable clinical question: In children with suspected haemolytic uraemic syndrome, particularly associated with E coli 0157:H7 infection, does treatment with antibiotics lead to increased morbidity, particularly progressive haemolytic uraemic syndrome …

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