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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What causes meningitis?

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    Dr Beth Thomas

    Paediatrician

    Beth works at the Angliss Hospital (Ferntree Gully) which has paediatric inpatients and outpatients and a Special Care Nursery. She also works at Monash Medical … View Profile

    Meningitis means an inflammation of the “meninges” which is the coverings of the brain and spinal cord. So an infection can be caused by bacteria (such as Neisseria meningitidis which causes meningococcal meningitis) or by a virus (such as Varicella, the chicken pox virus). It is also possible to get fungal meningitis, TB meningitis and parasitic meningitis (such as from malaria or schistosoma). Least common is the "non-infective" meningitis which can be caused as a side effect of some medications (such as some antibiotics), from cancer spreading to the meninges and from full body inflammatory conditions such as lupus or a vasculitis.

    However, the most important and most common causes of meningitis are the bacterial and viral infections. The rates of bacterial meningitis have been decreasing since the introduction of some immunizations which prevent the spread of meningitis, especially agains the N. meningitidis, Strep pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenzae bacteria.

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