Bacterial meningitis has long-lasting effects on the nervous system, according to a study by researchers from the UCL Institute of Child Health. According to the research published in The Lancet Neurology, 1 in 3 children who suffered from bacterial meningitis during their childhood are prone to other health problems later in life. The study, led by Professor Russell Viner at the UCL Institute of Child Health, is the first of its kind to analyze the long-term effects of meningococcal disease.
Long-term effects of bacterial meningitis refers more to mental health problems. Bacterial meningitis has an effect not only on short-memory and long-lasting, but also on behavior. It seems that 1 in 5 children have behavioral disorders, that is anxiety or other behavioural problems. Other long-term effects of meningitis were those related to hearing. The researchers found that children who suffered from meningitis were 5 times more likely to have hearing disorders. In addition, 2.4% of them required a cochlear implant due to bilateral hearing impairment.
Furthermore, it was also found that children who suffered from bacterial meningitis were five more likely to have learning and communication problems. These children have a low borderline IQ. In addition, they have problems in terms of the ability to organize and plan, especially when advancing the educational level, from primary to secondary school. Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, the membrane that is covering the brain and spinal cord, and can be life-threatening. Therefore, it is a medical emergency. Mortality was very high before antibiotics era, but even nowadays mortality remains high, approximately 25%. Meningitis is usually caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Bacterial meningitis is most often caused by bacteria that Streptococcus, Haemophilus, Neisseria and Staphylococcus meningitis. These microorganisms reach the nervous system through bloodstream from other parts of the body and causes irritation of the meninges. Bacterial meningitis is usually located at the dorsum of the brain, but when it is caused by fungi, it can be located at the base of the brain. Meningitis may be fatal because it can cause various complications such as abscesses, ventriculitis, empyema, etc..
Bacterial meningitis affects about 3,500 people in the UK every year, and half of them are children. Newborns have the highest risk of developing meningitis. Apart from newborns, there has been an increased incidence in people aged over 60 years. Classic symptoms of meningitis are discomfort on neck flexion, photophobia and headache. There may be also present signs of infection, such as otitis, pneumonia, mastoiditis etc. In children, signs of meningitis are bulging fontanelle, paradoxical irritability, hypotonia, etc..