IV treatment may lower risk of dying from bacterial meningitis

Sep 30, 2010

New research shows that an intravenous (IV) treatment may cut a person's risk of dying from bacterial meningitis. The research is published in the September 29, 2010, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The treatment is called dexamethasone.

"Using this treatment in people infected with meningitis has been under debate because in a few large studies it was shown to be ineffective," said study author Diederik van de Beek MD PhD, with the Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. "Our results provide valuable evidence suggesting that dexamethasone is effective in adult cases of bacterial meningitis and should continue to be used."

For the study, researchers evaluated 357 Dutch people age 16 or older with pneumococcal meningitis between 2006 and 2009. Of those, 8% were given dexamethasone through an IV with or before the first dose of antibiotics. The results were compared to an earlier study of 352 people treated for bacterial meningitis in 1998 through 2002, before Netherlands guidelines recommended using dexamethasone. In that study, only 3% of the people were given dexamethasone.

In both studies, participants were assessed on a rating scale of 1 to 5. A score of 1 was given for death, 2 for coma, 3 for severe disability, 4 for moderate disability, and 5 for mild or no disability. In the later study, 39% had an "unfavorable outcome," or a score of 4 or lower on the scale, compared to 50% in the earlier study group.

The study found that the rate of death for those who were given dexamethasone was 10% lower than in those in early study group. The rates of hearing loss were also nearly 10% lower for those in the later study group.

The study was supported by the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development and the Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam.

Source: News Release
American Academy of Neurology
September 29, 2010