What are nonviral causes of aseptic meningitis?

Updated: Jul 17, 2018
  • Author: Cordia Wan, MD; Chief Editor: Niranjan N Singh, MBBS, MD, DM, FAHS, FAANEM  more...
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Tuberculous, fungal, and mycoplasmal organisms are among the important nonviral causes of aseptic meningitis and should be suspected in the appropriate clinical setting.

For example, Lyme borreliosis causes a significant number of cases of aseptic meningitis in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The diagnosis is suggested by the history of tick bite or outdoor activity in these areas of endemic disease, and the presence of erythema chronicum migrans at the site of tick bite is pathognomonic. Lyme meningitis has a predilection to cause focal cranial nerve palsies, with the seventh nerve most commonly affected.

Clinicians must consider partially-treated bacterial meningitis as a possible etiology for the aseptic nature of their patient's disease; for example, patients with bacterial otitis and sinusitis who have been taking antibiotics may present with meningitis and CSF findings identical to those of viral meningitis.

The clinician should also realize that the picture of aseptic meningitis is created not only by infectious agents, but also by chemical irritation (chemical meningitis), neoplasm (meningitis carcinomatous), granulomatous disorders, and other inflammatory conditions. This discussion, however, focuses on meningitis caused by viral agents.

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