The objective of this study was to describe trends in neonatal meningitis in England and Wales during the years 1975-91. Laboratory reports and, for the years 1983-91, data on statutory notifications and deaths from neonatal meningitis were reviewed.
The mean annual total of laboratory reports of neonatal bacterial meningitis 1975-91 was 109 cases (range 69-133) with a slight upward trend apparent in the latter half of the study period. The mean annual number of reports of neonatal viral meningitis was only 14 cases with no trend apparent. The leading bacteria isolated were group B streptococci, Escherichia coli, and Listeria monocytogenes accounting for 34·1%, 28·5%, and 6·8% of reports, respectively. There was a change in the pattern of causative bacteria from 1981 onwards with the group B streptococcus displacing E coli as the leading cause. With respect to neonatal viral meningitis, echoviruses and coxsackie viruses accounted for 55·4% and 38·6% of cases, respectively. Neonatal meningitis was seriously undernotified; the ratio of laboratory reported cases to cases notified ranged from 12:1 in 1985 to 4:1 in 1989. The annual numbers of deaths ranged from 18 to 39.
The laboratory reporting system provided the most useful data on secular trends and causative organisms for neonatal meningitis. The slight upward trend in the number of reports of bacterial meningitis merits continued surveillance.
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