Bacterial meningitis has a detrimental impact on intelligence coefficient and development
Meningitis is the swelling of tissue layer surrounding the brain and the spinal cord, called meninges. There are various types of infection: viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitical. These have been considered serious pathogens and potentially fatal, causing 422,900 deaths and according a 2010 statistic, more than 2 million patients have disabling consequences.
The most common type is viral meningitis, occurring when a virus penetrates the organism through the nose or mouth and travels to the brain. The rarest one is bacterial meningitis; it starts with bacteria that cause infection similar to a flu and can cause a stroke, deafness, cerebral damage, injury to other organs, or even death. No person is safe from suffering this disease, but it is frequent in people with weak immune systems.
This affection is more frequent in sub-Saharan Africa. There is even a zone called the African meningitis belt, covering from Senegal to Ethiopia. In 2014, an epidemic season unfold on which 19 countries were affected. Almost 12 thousand suspicious cases were notified, and 1,146 of those were considered mortal. In the United States, 6 thousand cases of Pneumococcal meningitis are reported each year, caused by the Streptococci pneumoniae bacteria, also causing pneumonia, septicemia, blood poisoning, and sinus and ear infection.
Characteristic signs of meningitis are sudden and recurring fever, intense migraine, rigidness of the nape, and nausea or vomit. Generally, this disease manifests with symptoms similar to a flu and can develop in one or two days. In some cases characteristic eruptions are present and Meningococcal meningitis can be associated with kidney failure, adrenal insufficiency, and shock.
Early treatment is important to have positive results. Strong doses of general antibiotics are prescribed, followed by intravenous antibiotics for more severe cases. Adequate treatment based on antibiotics can reduce the risk of death in at least 15%. People with viral meningitis are treated with analgesics, liquids, and rest. Doctor can prescribe anticonvulsants and sedatives.
Recently, research have focused on evaluate the consequences of individuals that suffered from meningitis. A study of 2017 consisted on a systematic review and a meta-analysis to analyze the impact of meningitis on intelligence and development, based on IQ, used on standardized test to measure a level of intelligence, and the delay of development, concepts used on little kids or those who cannot complete formal IQ tests.
Most of the studies were of those who presented meningitis at an early age and where it was found that bacterial meningitis has a detrimental impact on intelligence and development of people who suffered from it. Survivors of this disease showed a reduction of approximately 5 points on IQ tests compared to those who were healthy.
Studies of development delay on young survivors reflected a deficit of 0, 5 ds on cognitive, social, linguistic, and motor development caused by bacteria. The result was contrary to that of viral meningitis, from which there was no evidence found of what has caused an impact on intelligence nor that is it associated with a delay on development of the survivors.
It is necessary that these results spark an interest to keep researching, to evaluate the consequences of the different types of meningitis, especially on those countries most affected by it.
Reviewers: Brenda Giselle Álvarez Rodríguez (Public Health Research), and Cassandra Saldaña Pineda (Knowledge Management Unit).
- Article “Impact of meningitis on intelligence and development: A systematic review and meta-analysis”. PLoS One. 2017; 12(8): e0175024
- Article: “Acute bacterial meningitis in Iran: Systematic review and meta-analysis”. PLoS One. 2017; 12(2): e0169617
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke