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Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs. Meningitis can be lifethreatening because of the inflammation's proximity to the brain and spinal cord; therefore the condition is classified as a medical emergency. The most common symptoms of meningitis are headache and neck stiffness associated with fever, confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, and an inability to tolerate light (photophobia) or loud noises (phonophobia). Sometimes, especially in small children, only nonspecific symptoms may be present, such as irritability and drowsiness. If a rash is present, it may indicate a particular cause of meningitis; for instance,meningitis caused by meningococcal bacteria may be accompanied by a characteristic rash. A lumbar puncture may be used to diagnose or exclude meningitis. This involves inserting a needle into the spinal canal to extract a sample ofcerebrospinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that envelops the brain and spinal cord. The CSF is then examined in a medical laboratory. The usual treatment for meningitis is the prompt application of antibiotics and sometimes antiviral drugs. In some situations, corticosteroid drugs can also be used to prevent complications from overactive inflammation. Meningitis can lead to serious long-term consequences such as deafness,epilepsy, hydrocephalus and cognitive deficits, especially if not treated quickly. Some forms of meningitis (such as those associated with meningococci, Haemophilus influenzae type B, pneumococci or mumps virus infections) may be prevented by immunization. MENINGITIS
Classification and external resources
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Causes Meningitis is usually caused by infection from viruses or microorga nisms. Most cases are due to infection with viruses with bacteria, fungi, and parasites being the next most common causes. It may also result from various non-infectious causes. Bacterial The types of bacteria that cause bacterial meningitis vary by age group. In premature babies and newborns up to three months old, common causes are group B streptococci (subtypes III which normally inhabit the vagina and are mainly a cause during the first week of life) and those that normally inhabit the digestive tract such as Escherichia coli (carrying K1 antigen).Listeria monocytogenes (serotype IVb) may affect the newborn and occurs in epidemics. Aseptic The term aseptic meningitis refers loosely to all cases of meningitis in which no bacterial infection can be demonstrated. This is usually due to viruses, but it may be due to bacterial infection that has already been partially treated, with disappearance of the bacteria from the meninges, or by infection in a space adjacent to the meninges Viral Viruses that can cause meningitis include enteroviruses, herpes simplex virus type 2 (and less commonly type 1), varicella zoster virus (known for causing chickenpox and shingles),mu mps virus, HIV, and LCMV. Parasitic well as the conditions cysticercosis, toxocariasis, baylisascariasis, paragonimiasis, and a number of rarer infections and noninfective conditions.
Signs and symptoms Clinical features In adults, a severe headache is the most common symptom of meningitis – occurring in almost 90% of cases of bacterial meningitis, followed by nuchal rigidity (inability to flex the neck forward passively due to increased neck muscle tone and stiffness). The classic triad of diagnostic signs consists of nuchal rigidity, sudden high fever, and altered mental status; however, all three features are present in only 44– 46% of all cases of bacterial meningitis. If none of the three signs is present, meningitis is extremely unlikely. Other signs commonly associated with meningitis include photophobia (intolerance to bright light) and phonophobia (intolerance to loud noises). Small children often do not exhibit the aforementioned symptoms, and may only be irritable and look unwell. In infants up to 6 months of age, bulging of the fontanelle (the soft spot on top of a baby's head) may be present. Other features that might distinguish meningitis from less severe illnesses in young children are leg pain, cold
a systemic inflammatory response syndrome of falling blood pressure. Often. guidelines recommend that benzylpenicillin be administered before transfer to hospital. Intravenous fluids should be administered if hypotension (low blood pressure) or shock are present. this may lead to insufficient blood supply to other organs. The findings from a post mortem are usually a widespread inflammation of the pia materand arachnoid layers of the meninges covering the brain and spinal cord. and inserting a needle into the dural elevated. People with meningitis may develop additional problems in the early stages of their illness. In severe forms of meningitis. often in pairs Postmortem Meningitis can be diagnosed after death has occurred. and therefore may suggest bacterial meningitis. a CT orMRI scan is recommended prior to the lumbar puncture. < 300/mm³ mononuclear and PMNs. delay in treatment has been associated with a poorer outcome. localizing neurological signs. Disseminated intravascular coagulation. This applies in 45% of all adult cases. applying local anesthetic. Thus treatment with widespectrum antibiotics should not be delayed while confirmatory tests are being conducted. a known immune system problem. lumbar puncture is contraindicated if there is a mass in the brain (tumor or abscess) or the intracranial pressure (ICP) is elevated. as well as admission to an intensive care unit if deemed necessary. as well as blood cultures. Early complications disease. Gram stain of meningococci from a culture showing Gram negative (pink) bacteria. When this has been achieved. the "opening pressure" of the CSF is measured using a manometer. and sometimes indicate severe illness or worse prognosis. the excessive activation of blood clotting. Neutrophil granulocytes tend to have migrated to the cerebrospinal fluid and the base of the brain. These may require specific treatment. The most important test in identifying or ruling out meningitis is analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid through lumbar puncture (LP. Creactive protein. The infection may trigger sepsis. spinal tap). often > 300/mm³ mononuclear. blood tests are performed for markers of inflammation (e. usually lying on the side. especially if this may be longer than 30 minutes. Treatment Initial treatment Meningitis is potentially lifethreatening and has a high mortality rate if untreated. or if LP proves difficult. may be surrounded with pus—as may the meningeal vessels. as it may lead to brain herniation. due to a combination of factors including dehydration. for example. Very low blood pressure may occur early. If someone is at risk for either a mass or raised ICP (recent head injury. If meningococcal disease is suspected in primary care. professional guidelines suggest that antibiotics should be administered first to prevent delay in treatment. regular medical review is recommended to identify these complications early. in bacterial meningitis the pressure is typically . or overly aggressive intravenous fluid administration. In meningococcal In someone suspected of having meningitis. The initial appearance of the fluid may prove an indication of the nature of the infection: cloudy CSF indicates higher levels of protein. white and red blood cells and/or bacteria. Diagnosis Blood tests and imaging CSF findings in different forms of meningitis Type of meningitis Acute bacterial Acute viral Glucos e low Protein Cells PMNs. may cause both the obstruction of blood flow to organs and a paradoxical increase of bleeding risk.complete blood count). If a CT or MRI is required before LP. the inappropriate excretion of the antidiuretic hormone (SIADH). or evidence on examination of a raised ICP).gangrene of limbs can occur. Bacterial meningitis sac (a sac around the spinal cord) to collect cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Lumbar puncture A lumbar puncture is done by positioning the patient. However.extremities. especially but not exclusively in meningococcal illness. along with cranial nerves and the spinal cord.g. monitoring of blood electrolytes may be important. and an abnormal skin color. high or abnormally low temperature and rapid breathing. CT or MRI scans are performed at a later stage to assess for complications of meningitis.fast heart rate. Given that meningitis can cause a number of early severe complications. < 300/mm³ < 300/mm³ usually mononuclear high normal or high normal Tuberculo us Fungal Malignant low high low low high high A severe case of meningococcal meningitis in which the petechial rash progressed to gangrene and required amputation of all limbs. hyponatremia is common in bacterial meningitis. The pressure is normally between 6 and 18 cm water (cmH2O).
Once the Gram stain results become available. but cannot be spread by only breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. one of the third-generation cefalosporin antibiotics recommended for the initial treatment of bacterial meningitis. Structural formula of ceftriaxone. Both can be transmitted through droplets of respiratory secretions during close contact such as kissing. it may be possible to change the antibiotics to those likely to deal with the presumed group of pathogens. or in the short term with antibiotics. Given that most of the benefit of the treatment is confined to those with pneumococcal . bedrest. Professional guidelines therefore recommend the commencement of dexamethasone or a similar corticosteroid just before the first dose of antibiotics is given. and is most commonly spread through fecal contamination. The likely mechanism is suppression of overactive inflammation. where resistance to cefalosporins is increasingly found in streptococci. Viral meningitis is typically caused by Enteroviruses. For instance. even before the results of the lumbar puncture and CSF analysis are known. Empirical therapy may be chosen on the basis of the age of the patient. and continued for four days. In the USA. addition of ampicillin is recommended to cover Listeria monocytogenes. Steroids neurological damage in adolescents and adults from high income countries which have low rates of HIV. Empiric antibiotics (treatment without exact diagnosis) must be started immediately. whether the patient has undergone neurosurgery and whether or not a cerebral shunt is present. whether the infection was preceded by head injury. Viral meningitis tends to run a more benign course than bacterial meningitis. sneezing or coughing on someone. Viral meningitis typically requires supportive therapy only.Antibiotics meningitis. Neither are as contagious as the common cold or flu. prophylaxis can be provided in the long term with vaccine. Prevention Bacterial and viral meningitis are contagious. and the broad type of bacterial cause is known. Mild cases of viral meningitis can be treated at home with conservative measures such as fluid. and analgesics. in the United Kingdom empirical treatment consists of a thirdgeneration cefalosporin such as cefotaxime or ceftriaxone. addition of vancomycin to the initial treatment is recommended. For instance. but there are no clinical trials that have specifically addressed whether this treatment is effective. as well as those who are immunocompromised. some guidelines suggest that dexamethasone be discontinued if another cause for meningitis is identified. The choice of initial treatment depends largely on the kind of bacteria that cause meningitis in a particular place. most viruses responsible for causing meningitis are not amenable to specific treatment. Herpes simplex virus and varicella zoster virus may respond to treatment with antiviral drugs such as aciclovir. For some causes of meningitis. in young children and those over 50 years of age.
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