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Bacterial Meningitis: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment- Antibiotics

Brain– The central processing unit of our body. A normal functioning brain helps us do our daily routine work, helps us to think, and do things in a proper fashion. One cannot imagine living a normal life without an appropriately functioning brain, but there are unfortunate cases where the brain starts functioning abnormally as a result of infections. One such infection is Bacterial Meningitis, in which there is swelling of tissues around the brain as a result of a bacterial infection, which can be a potentially life-threatening condition and needs immediate medical attention. In this article, we will discuss about various causes of Bacterial Meningitis and how an individual, who unfortunately has this disease, should go about getting treated.

Bacterial Meningitis

How Do We Define Bacterial Meningitis?

Meningitis is the name given to a form of infection of membranes called the meninges, which surround the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis may be caused due to some form of bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. Meningitis can be acute with rapid onset of symptoms, chronic which lasts for a few months, or mild. Immediate medical attention needs to be sought if an individual experiences signs or symptoms of meningitis.

Bacterial meningitis is one of the most common types of meningitis and constitutes approximately 85% of cases of meningitis. Bacterial meningitis can potentially be life-threatening. This infection can result in swelling of the tissues around the brain hence interfering with appropriate blood flow and may result in paralysis or stroke.

Causes of Bacterial Meningitis

  • The bacteria responsible to cause Bacterial Meningitis are very commonly found in our surroundings. It can also be found in the respiratory system but causes no harm.
  • There are times when Bacterial Meningitis occurs for no specific reason and at other times it occurs after a head trauma or after an infection when the immune system is compromised.

Risk Factors for Bacterial Meningitis

Children between one month and two years of age are more prone to Bacterial Meningitis.

It may also occur in adults who have some risk factors for Bacterial Meningitis like individuals abusing alcohol, prone to chronic nose and ear infections, have experienced a head trauma or have suffered from a bout of pneumococcal pneumonia. A person with a compromised immune system is also prone to bacterial Meningitis. In instances where someone has undergone a brain or a spinal surgery may put that person at higher risk of getting bacterial meningitis.

Symptoms Of Bacterial Meningitis

Symptoms To Look Out For In Case Of Bacterial Meningitis Are:

In children, fever may result in instances of vomiting and decreased appetite. Children may also have seizures. In some instances, there may be swelling of the head due to fluid buildup around the skull.

Diagnosis Of Bacterial Meningitis

It is imperative for a person who experiences signs and symptoms of Bacterial Meningitis to contact a medical provider. The provider will do a detailed physical examination. The physician will look for purple or red rashes on skin. The physician will also look for neck stiffness. A spinal tap may be ordered to identify whether the cause is bacterial, viral, or fungal. The physician may also do a routine blood draw and urinalysis.

Treatment For Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is usually treated by antibiotics. An intravenous antibiotic with corticosteroid to calm down the inflammation may be given even prior to the results of all the tests conducted on the individual. Bacterial meningitis can be cured successfully if diagnosed and treated early but if allowed to progress it may cause permanent damage in the form of seizures, mental impairment, and paralysis which might be life-long.

Is Bacterial Meningitis Contagious?

Generally, Bacterial Meningitis is not contagious but it is encouraged that anyone who has been in close contact with an infected individual to seek preventative treatment.


  1. Brouwer MC, Tunkel AR, van de Beek D. Epidemiology, diagnosis, and antimicrobial treatment of acute bacterial meningitis. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2010;23(3):467-492. doi:10.1128/CMR.00070-09
  2. Kim KS. Acute bacterial meningitis in infants and children. Lancet Infect Dis. 2010;10(1):32-42. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(09)70307-7
  3. Thigpen MC, Whitney CG, Messonnier NE, et al. Bacterial meningitis in the United States, 1998-2007. N Engl J Med. 2011;364(21):2016-2025. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1005384
  4. Heckenberg SG, Brouwer MC, van de Beek D. Bacterial meningitis. Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;121:1361-1375. doi:10.1016/B978-0-7020-4088-7.00091-6
  5. McGill F, Griffiths MJ, Bonnett LJ, et al. Incidence, aetiology, and sequelae of viral meningitis in UK adults: a multicentre prospective observational cohort study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2018;18(9):992-1003. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(18)30245-0

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 5, 2023

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