TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2018

Number of babies with meningitis unchanged in past 25 years

Recent research funded by the Meningitis Research Foundation revealed that babies under 3 months of age have more than 70 times the chance of catching bacterial meningitis than adults.

Approximately 1 in 10 of those babies will die, according to a Meningitis Research Foundation press release.

The study, led by Professor Paul Heath at the University of London, compared recent meningitis figures in babies with those in the 1990s and 1980s. The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Diseases.

The research found 364 cases of bacterial meningitis in babies in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 2010-2011. Scientists were able to identify and isolate the bacteria in approximately 300 of the cases, and discovered that group B streptococcus (GBS) was the cause in half of them.

The GBS numbers are relatively unchanged from 1997, despite a national effort to fight the disease in the U.K. started in 2003. The campaign uses antibiotics to treat babies who are at a higher risk of catching GBS in the first week of life.

"GBS prevention using antibiotics can only have an impact on early onset disease, meaning there are still late-onset cases contributing significantly to the burden of meningitis and septicaemia in neonates," Heath said. "Clearly a better strategy for preventing GBS infection is now required."