Types of Meningitis

There are three main types of Meningitis, namely bacterial, viral and fungal. These are explained further as follows:

1. Bacterial

  • Meningococcal Disease: This disease tends to be life threatening. The interesting thing to note is that Meningococcal disease by itself stands for two major conditions; Meningitis and septicemia (also known as blood poisoning). Both these illnesses go hand in hand and are therefore likely to occur together. Babies and children tend to be most vulnerable to Meningococcal disease followed by teenagers and young adults. Patients struck with the illness are in urgent need of medical attention. Approximately 7% of people die due to meningococcal disease and about 15% are forced to live with serious and disabling side effects.
  • Pneumococcal: Just as in the case of meningococcal disease, pneumococcal meningitis is also life threatening and needs immediate medical attention. In most cases people do recover, however about 20% succumb to the illness and around 25% are affected with severe, disabling side effects.
  • Tuberculosis (TB): TB is an infection of the lungs. However, the bacteria that cause TB could also lead to meningitis in a small number of people. TB Meningitis is more difficult to recognize and treat as it develops rather slowly over a period of time.
  • Hib: Hib meningitis is caused by bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae type b. Vaccines for the same were introduced in the year 1992 that resulted in reducing the number of cases; thus making Hib meningitis rare.
  • Neonatal: Simply put, neonatal meningitis affects newborn babies. Neonatal meningitis is caused by two bacteria called group B streptococcus (streptococcus agalactiae) and E. coli bacteria. The important thing to note about neonatal meningitis is that although it is a rare type of meningitis it is responsible for a death rate as high as 20%. Babies who are born prematurely and/or those babies who are born after a long or difficult labor are at a higher risk of developing neonatal meningitis.
2. Viral
  • Apart from bacterial causes, meningitis can be caused due to a variety of bacteria as well. Viral meningitis is far more common than bacterial meningitis, and is usually less serious. The symptoms of viral meningitis are often confused with the symptoms of the flu. In serious cases, the patient may require hospitalization and close monitoring.
3. Fungal
  • Fungal meningitis is rarer than bacterial and viral meningitis. This happens when the immune system is under attack by diseases such as HIV infection; or it could also be caused due to drug therapy. Fungal meningitis is difficult to recognize and treat. Some examples of fungi that cause meningitis are Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida albicans.

Frequently asked questions
  1. Justine Miranda, Allan R. Tunkel, Strategies and New Developments in the Management of Bacterial Meningitis, Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, Volume 23, Issue 4, December 2009, Pages 925-943, ISSN 0891-5520, 10.1016/j.idc.2009.06.014.
  2. Charles S Bryan, Kenneth L Reynolds, Linda Crout, Promptness of antibiotic therapy in acute bacterial meningitis, Annals of Emergency Medicine, Volume 15, Issue 5, May 1986, Pages 544-547, ISSN 0196-0644, 10.1016/S0196-0644(86)80990-8.
  3. Swati Waghdhare, Ashwini Kalantri, Rajnish Joshi, Shriprakash Kalantri, Accuracy of physical signs for detecting meningitis: A hospital-based diagnostic accuracy study, Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, Volume 112, Issue 9, November 2010, Pages 752-757, ISSN 0303-8467, 10.1016/j.clineuro.2010.06.003.