A trial looking at a new test to help diagnose infection in central lines for children and young people having cancer treatment (SC 2005 06)

Cancer type:

Children's cancers





This trial looked at a new test to pick up infection in children's central lines.

This trial was for children and young people up to and including the age of 18. We use the term ‘you’ in this summary, but of course if you are a parent, we are referring to your child.

If you are having treatment for cancer, you will probably need to have a central or long line. Doctors and nurses use this to give you chemotherapy and to take blood samples. It means that you do not have to have a needle put into your vein every time you need a blood test or treatment.

But one of the problems with having a central line is that it can become infected. If it is a serious infection, the doctors may have to take out the line. If you develop an infection, the doctors will start antibiotics straight away and do tests to find out where the infection is. The infection could be in the central line, but it could be somewhere else in the body.

The test results can take a few days to come back from the laboratory. Sometimes the doctors will have already taken out the central line before the test results come back. If the results show that the infection was not in the line, it may be that the line didn’t need to come out after all.

This trial looked at a new blood test to see if it could help doctors to work out if an infection was in a central line or not. The nurse or doctor took a blood sample from the central line for this new test. The research team measured the amount of bacterial DNA in the blood sample to find out if there were high levels of bacteria in the line. If this test showed where the infection was, it might stop lines being taken out unnecessarily.

Summary of results

The trial team found that measuring the amount of bacterial DNA in a blood sample from the central line may not be any more accurate than other types of blood tests and clinical assessment at showing where the infection was.  

This trial recruited several hundred children and young people from a number of cancer centres in the UK. If they were taken to hospital with a fever, a blood sample was taken from their central line. The researchers measured how much bacterial DNA was in the blood sample.

The researchers then looked at details of the antibiotics each child had, how long the fever lasted, whether the central line was removed and whether the doctors found out that the infection had started somewhere else in the body.

From all this information, the study team worked out how likely it was that the infection was in the central line. They classed this as probable, possible or unlikely.

The bacterial DNA test picked up  two thirds of the infections that the researchers classified as probably being  in the central line. But the researchers concluded that it was no better at predicting who would need to have their central line removed than other types of blood tests and clinical assessment.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr M. Millar

Supported by

Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG)
NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) programme
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 655

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Rhys was only four years old when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour

A picture of Rhys

"He went through six operations and was placed on a clinical trial so he could try new treatments.”

Last reviewed:

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