When is chemoprophylaxis for meningitis recommended?

Updated: Jul 16, 2019
  • Author: Rodrigo Hasbun, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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After exposure to an index case involving H influenzae, N meningitidis, or S pneumoniae, temporary nasopharyngeal carriage of the organism is typical. An association between carriage and the risk of disease has been described, especially for N meningitidis and H influenzae. This is the basis for the recommendations on chemoprophylaxis. However, such prophylaxis does not treat incubating invasive disease; accordingly close monitoring of individuals at highest risk is crucial.

To eliminate nasopharyngeal carriage of Hib and to decrease invasion of colonized susceptible individuals, rifampin (20 mg/kg/day for 4 days) is given. The index patient may need chemoprophylaxis if the administered treatment does not eliminate carriage.

Prophylaxis is suggested for contacts of persons with meningococcal meningitis (eg, household contacts, daycare center members who eat and sleep in the same dwelling, close contacts in military barracks or boarding schools, and medical personnel performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). Rifampin (600 mg PO every 12 hours for 2 days) can rapidly eradicate the carrier stage, and the prophylaxis persists for as long as 10 weeks after treatment.

Alternative agents for adults include ceftriaxone (250 mg IM in a single dose); this agent is also the safest choice in pregnant patients. Ceftriaxone has been shown to eradicate the carrier state for 14 days. Ciprofloxacin (500-750 mg in a single dose) is also effective.

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