Which pathogens cause the highest mortality and morbidity in bacterial meningitis?

Updated: Jul 16, 2019
  • Author: Rodrigo Hasbun, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Among bacterial pathogens, S pneumoniae causes the highest mortality (20-30% in adults, 10% in children) and morbidity (15%) in meningitis. If severe neurologic impairment is evident at the time of presentation (or if the onset of illness is extremely rapid), mortality is 50-90% and morbidity is even higher, even with immediate medical treatment. Meningitis caused by L monocytogenes or gram-negative bacilli also has a higher case-fatality rate than meningitis caused by other bacterial agents.

Reported overall mortality for meningitis from specific bacterial organisms is as follows:

  • S pneumoniae - 19-26%

  • H influenzae - 3-6%

  • N meningitidis - 3-13%

  • L monocytogenes - 15-29%

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