JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Bacterial profile and clinical outcome of childhood meningitis in rural Yemen: a 2-year hospital-based study.

BACKGROUND: Childhood acute bacterial meningitis (ABM) is an important cause of death and long-term neurological disability in Yemen, the only low income-high mortality country in the Arabian Peninsula. The objective of this study was to document the microbial characteristics, the antibacterial sensitivity pattern, and the outcome for children hospitalized with ABM, prior to the introduction of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine in Yemen.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: The study was retrospective, conducted at a rural district hospital, serving the rural population of the northern parts of Yemen. All patients aged 1 month-15 years admitted between May 1999 and June 2001, with clinical evidence of meningitis and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cultured, were included in the study. Clinical information from case notes, including CSF result and the outcome on discharge, were obtained. Analysis of extracted data was performed using Epi Info software.

RESULTS: During the 2-year study period, 160 study patients met the inclusion criteria, and 7 (4.4%) were negative for bacterial growth. In the 153 positive cultures there were 46 (30.1%) Streptococcus pneumoniae (SP), 23 (15%) H. influenzae (HI), 81 (52.9) Neisseria meningitidis (NM), 2 (1.3%) Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), and 1 (0.7%) Escherichia coli. Sixteen study patients died (overall case fatality rate (CFR) 10%), 7 aged under 12 months, 6 aged 12-60 months, and 3 more than 60 months. Ten deaths were due to SP meningitis, 2 HI meningitis, 3 NM meningitis, and 1 had S. aureus. Of the 144 survivors, 28 (19.4%) developed permanent neurological complications, 17 aged less than 12 months, 6 aged 12-60 months, and 5 more than 60 months. SP meningitis accounted for 57.1% (16/28), and 6 (21.4%) had HI meningitis. Among the 89 aged 1-60 months, 13 died (CFR 14.6%), and 23 (30.3%) of the 76 survivors developed permanent complications. Of those tested 20% and 35% of the 20 HI tested isolates and 9.5% and 14.3% of the 42 SP isolates, were resistant to ampicillin and penicillin G, respectively, and the majority of the 81 NM isolates were sensitive to both. The 3 pathogens were largely resistant to gentamicin, and almost all were susceptible to chloramphenicol and cefotaxime.

CONCLUSION: In contrast to the studies from the low-mortality countries of the region, our study showed that the predominant pathogens of childhood ABM were SP and NM. SP meningitis was associated with increased mortality and permanent disability.

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