Bacterial Meningitis Decreased Across US

Bacterial meningitis rates and pneumococcal meningitis mortality dropped in US

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Many worry about the diseases vaccines protect against, but a recent study showed that efforts to improve immunizations and treatments for at least one illness may be working.

The study focused on rates of bacterial meningitis in the US during a period when efforts to fight the condition underwent changes in the US.

The researchers found that, between 1997 and 2010, rates of bacterial meningitis fell, as did rates of death from one form of the illness — pneumococcal meningitis.

"Avoid sharing food or drink with people who are sick."

Bacterial meningitis is a serious illness that can be caused by several different forms of bacteria, including Streptococcus pneumoniae and Neisseria meningitidis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the infection typically causes symptoms like fever, headache, and stiffness in the neck and can lead to serious issues like brain damage, hearing loss and death.

The study was conducted by Rodrigo Hasbun, MD, of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, and colleagues.

The authors wanted to see whether rates of bacterial meningitis in the US had changed after changes in vaccinations and treatments for the illness during the 2000s.

To do so, Dr. Hasbun and team used data from the HealthCare Cost Utilization Project network database to identify cases of bacterial meningitis at about 1,000 US hospitals between 1997 and 2010. The researchers then used data from the US census to estimate overall rates of the illness for the entire population.

The study authors identified 50,822 cases of bacterial meningitis from the five most common pathogens during the study period. Dr. Hasbun and colleagues found that, over the course of the study, the overall rate of bacterial meningitis fell.

Rates of illness from Streptococcus pneumoniae — the most common cause of bacterial meningitis — fell from 0.8 cases per 100,000 people in 1997 to 0.3 cases per 100,000 people at the end of 2010.

Pneumococcal meningitis, a type of bacterial meningitis that is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, can develop when the infection spreads to the areas surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Deaths from pneumococcal meningitis fell from 0.073 deaths per 100,000 people in 2002 to 0.024 deaths per 100,000 people in 2008.

Infections with Neisseria meningitidis also fell — from 0.721 cases per 100,000 people in 1997 to 0.123 cases per 100,000 people in 2010.

Dr. Hasbun and team noted that their findings supported proper vaccine use to combat bacterial meningitis. Vaccines that protect against the disease are a part of routine immunization in the US, the CDC noted.

The study was published online Aug. 5 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Funding for the study was provided by a number of sources, including the National Center for Research Resources and the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 13, 2014
Last Updated:
August 18, 2014