Neonatal meningitis is a severe medical condition in infants under 44 days old, an inflammation of the meninges, which are the protective membranes of the body’s central nervous system. Mortality rates from neonatal meningitis ranges from 50 percent in developing countries, to a low of 8 to 12 percent in developed nations. Rates of infection in developed nations are approximately 3 in every 10,000 live births. In some parts of Africa and South Asia, rates range from 8 to 61 per 10,000.
The most common cause of neonatal meningitis is a bacterial infection in the blood. Delayed treatment could lead to cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, or learning disabilities. Symptoms include fever, poor appetite, vomiting, seizures, jaundice and cyanosis, among others. The only proper way to diagnose neonatal meningitis is through a lumbar puncture, commonly known as a spinal tap. Early on-set cases result from acquisition of bacteria from the mother either before or during birth. More often than not, the bacteria are either group B Streptococcus (GBS), E. coli, or Listeria monocytogenes.
Prevention of bacterial neonatal meningitis is primarily through the administration of antibiotics during labor. For viral neonatal meningitis, the only way to prevent is through performing a caesarean section. Treatment options are generally antibiotics, often a mixture of ampicillin, gentamicin, and cefotaxime.