Meningitis - Bacterial Meningitis

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Meningitis - Bacterial Meningitis
Meningitis - Bacterial Meningitis
Video: Meningitis - Bacterial Meningitis
Video: (Bacterial) Meningitis Pathophysiology 2023, February

Bacterial meningitis (acute)

Meningitis causes inflammation of the membranes of the brain or spinal cord. It is also called meningitis or meningitis. If the brain is also affected, it is called meningoencephalitis.

The causative agents of acute bacterial meningitis in adults include meningococci (meningococcal meningitis) and pneumococci (pneumococcal meningitis). Other bacteria are less frequently involved (e.g. Listeria, Staphylococci, Haemophilus influenzae). Bacterial meningitis can - but does not always have to - be purulent.


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  • How can you prevent?
  • What are the symptoms?
  • How is the diagnosis made?
  • ">How is the treatment carried out?


  • Whom can I ask?


How can you prevent?

Vaccines are available against certain pathogens. For more information on this and on transmission paths, see

  • Vaccination against meningococci
  • Meningococcal Meningitis (Travel Medicine)
  • Meningococci (information from the BMSGPK)
  • Vaccination against pneumococci
  • Tuberculosis (travel medicine, see also chronic meningitis)
  • Haemophilus influenzae infections (children)

What are the symptoms?

In addition to an initially general feeling of illness and uncharacteristic general symptoms, acute bacterial meningitis is manifested in adults by

  • Headaches that increase to extremely severe pain,
  • Fever (which increases in temperature)
  • Neck stiffness,
  • Nausea,
  • Vomit,
  • Disturbances in consciousness or loss of consciousness (sometimes within a few hours) and
  • Photophobia.

The signs of meningitis usually occur in combination, with neck stiffness being particularly characteristic. It is a direct expression of the inflammation of the meninges and spinal cords and is known as meningism. When infected with meningococci, bleeding often occurs, which shows up as small point-like spots on the skin (petechiae).

Note Acute bacterial meningitis is life-threatening and can lead to serious complications and life-threatening situations (septic shock or sepsis). In the most severe cases, it can lead to death within a few hours from inflammation of the brain or from cardiovascular failure (most severe blood coagulation disorders, failure of the adrenal glands, Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome). It is therefore necessary to act quickly and to have suspicious complaints clarified and treated immediately by a doctor!

How is the diagnosis made?

The doctor orients himself / herself on the physical condition of the person concerned. Symptoms and other facts of the anamnesis provide clues.

  • In addition to a physical examination, a lumbar puncture is carried out as part of the diagnosis, in which cerebrospinal fluid is removed from the spinal canal. The samples of the liquor are examined for signs of inflammation and pathogens. More information about lumbar puncture.
  • Various laboratory tests are carried out, including PCR, bacterial culture, cell count, glucose, protein, etc. You can find more information on the individual laboratory values ​​under, among other things, laboratory values ​​table.
  • Further examinations, such as a CT of the head, may be needed to identify complications and causes.

How is the treatment carried out?

The treatment is medicated. Antibiotics and possibly glucocorticoids are administered intravenously. If the pathogen is known, antibiotics can be targeted.

Note It is essential to start therapy quickly. Acute bacterial meningitis can lead to a life-threatening situation within a few hours. If bacteria spread through the blood, there is a risk of septic shock or sepsis (blood poisoning). Intensive medical treatment is essential in life-threatening situations.

Since meningococci are very contagious, the affected patients must be temporarily isolated. People who are suspected of having a meningococcal infection are immediately admitted to a hospital and are usually isolated there for 24 hours after the initiation of therapy. If it has been proven that meningococci or Haemophilus influenzae are responsible for the meningitis, so-called environmental chemoprophylaxis may be necessary. Antibiotics are given to people in close contact with those affected, for example family members, in kindergartens, schools and people who have had contact with the mucous membranes or saliva of the sick. Medical staff may also need to undergo treatment.

A bacterial meningitis or sepsis, e.g. caused by meningococci, pneumococci and Haemophilus influenzae, must be reported.

Meningitis (Borrelia meningitis) can also occur with another bacterial infection (Lyme borreliosis). However, this is not so dramatic. Information on the prevention, diagnosis and therapy of an infection with Borrelia can be found at

  • Lyme disease as well
  • Chronic meningitis.

The occurrence and course of meningitis depend on many factors, including the health of the person affected, any accompanying illnesses, the pathogen, the start of therapy and the duration of the infection. Under certain circumstances, severe long-term damage can occur (e.g. neurological damage, deafness).

Whom can I ask?

Any suspicion of bacterial meningitis will be clarified in the hospital. The transport is often carried out with an emergency doctor. In the event of severe pain, high fever, changes in consciousness or loss of consciousness, inform them immediately! The lumbar puncture is also performed in the hospital.

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