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Neonatal meningitis in England and Wales: 10 years on
  1. D E Holt,
  2. S Halket,
  3. J de Louvois,
  4. D Harvey
  1. The Karim Centre for Meningitis Research, Imperial College School of Medicine, Department of Paediatrics and Neonatal Medicine, Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital, Goldhawk Road, London W6 0XG, UK
  1. Professor Harvey, Department of Paediatrics, Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, Ducane Road, London W12 0NN, UKdavid.harvey{at}


OBJECTIVES To determine the incidence of neonatal meningitis in England and Wales.

DESIGN A national postal survey using the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit (BPSU) card scheme supplemented by information from other sources.

SETTING England and Wales 1996–1997.

SUBJECTS A total of 274 babies less than 28 days of age who were treated for meningitis.

RESULTS The incidence of neonatal meningitis in England and Wales has not changed since our previous study in 1985–1987. However, the acute phase mortality has fallen from 19.8% in 1985–1987 to 6.6% in this study. Group B streptococci (42%) and Escherichia coli(16%) remain the most common infecting microorganisms. Eight of 69 (12%) babies with group B streptococci and 4/26 (15%) withE coli died. Antibiotic regimens based on the third generation cephalosporins, notably cefotaxime, were most commonly used (84%). The BPSU scheme identified 72% of cases during the study period. Most cases of viral meningitis were not reported through the BPSU. Less than a third of samples from aseptic meningitis were examined for viruses; 56% of these were positive.

CONCLUSIONS Although the incidence of neonatal meningitis remains unchanged, mortality from this infection has fallen significantly. If this improvement is maintained as reflected in the level of sequelae at 5 years of age, then the fear surrounding meningitis during the neonatal period will have been dramatically reduced.

  • meningitis
  • group B streptococci
  • Escherichia coli
  • cephalosporins
  • viral meningitis
  • mortality

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