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Treatment of bacterial meningitis: an update.

INTRODUCTION: The introduction of protein conjugate vaccines for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumoniae) and Neisseria meningitidis (N. menigitidis) has changed the epidemiology of bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis continues to be an important cause of mortality and morbidity, and our incomplete knowledge of its pathogenesis and emergence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria contribute to such mortality and morbidity. An early empiric antibiotic treatment is critical for the management of patients with bacterial meningitis.

AREAS COVERED: This article gives an overview on optimal treatment strategies of bacterial meningitis, along with considerations of new insights on epidemiology, clinical and laboratory findings supportive of bacterial meningitis, chemoprophylaxis, selection of initial antimicrobial agents for suspected bacterial meningitis, antimicrobial resistance and utility of new antibiotics, status on anti-inflammatory agents and adjunctive therapy, and pathogenesis of bacterial meningitis.

EXPERT OPINION: Prompt treatment of bacterial meningitis with an appropriate antibiotic is essential. Optimal antimicrobial treatment of bacterial meningitis requires bactericidal agents able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier (BBB), with efficacy in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Several new antibiotics have been introduced for the treatment of meningitis caused by resistant bacteria, but their use in human studies has been limited. More complete understanding of the microbial and host interactions that are involved in the pathogenesis of bacterial meningitis and associated neurologic sequelae is likely to help in developing new strategies for the prevention and therapy of bacterial meningitis.

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