Almost one in three of those diagnosed with childhood bacterial meningitis experience at least one long-term disability, a study shows.
Contracting the infection as a child raised the risk of having one of seven long-term disabilities when older, according to US and Swedish researchers led by Merck & Co.
Their analysis included 36,230 Swedish individuals diagnosed with bacterial meningitis (younger than 18 years) and matched with nine controls with up to 35 years of follow-up (1987 through 2021).
The researchers found that individuals diagnosed with bacterial meningitis had a higher cumulative incidence of all seven examined disabilities.
These included cognitive disabilities, seizures, hearing loss, motor function disorders, visual disturbances, behavioural and emotional disorders, and intracranial structural injuries.
They reported that 29% had at least one disability.
The highest relative risk for cases versus controls was seen for intracranial structural injuries, hearing loss, and motor function disorders.
Risks for cognitive disabilities, seizures, hearing loss, and motor function disorders were significantly higher for Streptococcus pneumoniae infection versus Haemophilus influenzae infection or Neisseria meningitidis infection.
Risk for cognitive disabilities, seizures, behavioural and emotional disorders, and intracranial structural injuries were significantly higher for children diagnosed with bacterial meningitis younger than the median age (1.5 years at diagnosis).
“The relative risk of disabilities tended to be highest during the first years after a diagnosis of bacterial meningitis but remained higher during the period starting over five years after diagnosis, suggesting that bacterial meningitis has both acute and long-term consequences,” the authors wrote.
Several authors disclosed ties to the pharmaceutical industry and the study was funded by Merck Sharp & Dohme.
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More information: JAMA Netw Open 2024; 19 Jan.