Surveillance of clinical characteristics of children with pneumococcal meningitis starts this month

This British Paediatric Surveillance Unit study will aim to gain a better understanding of these non-vaccine strains of pneumococcal bacteria causing meningitis - enabling more accurate information to patients and their families on prognosis and informing public health vaccine policy.

Pneumococcal meningitis is a life threatening infectious disease that causes inflammation of the layers that surround the brain and spinal cord, resulting in significant disability and death. In industrialised countries, up to a third of survivors of pneumococcal meningitis may develop disabilities such as deafness, blindness, epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

The national immunisation programmes in the UK and Ireland have led to a rapid decrease in strains caused by the vaccine serotypes. The overall reduction, however, has been offset by a small increase in disease due to non-vaccine strains. Currently, nearly all pneumococcal meningitis infections in children are caused by non-vaccine pneumococcal strains. Because these strains have only emerged after the pneumococcal vaccines were introduced, we have very little knowledge of the risk, clinical severity and outcomes of pneumococcal meningitis caused by these new and emerging strains.

This study will estimate the incidence of childhood pneumococcal meningitis in the era of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines; describe symptoms and signs at presentation; describe the investigations, management and treatment in hospital; describe the clinical course of illness; and describe the outcomes of pneumococcal meningitis.

This study is being led by Dr Godwin Oligbu, winner of the Sir Peter Tizard Research Bursary 2017-18.

More about this study