How is meningitis treated in neonates with sepsis?

Updated: Jun 13, 2019
  • Author: Nathan S Gollehon, MD, FAAP; Chief Editor: Muhammad Aslam, MD  more...
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Infants with bacterial meningitis often require higher dosages of antibiotics and longer courses of treatment. In addition, these infants may require an antimicrobial that has better penetration of the blood-brain barrier, such as cephalosporins, so that therapeutic drug concentrations can be achieved in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

To determine whether the CSF is sterile, a follow-up lumbar puncture is recommended within 24-36 hours after initiation of antibiotic therapy. If organisms are still present, modification of the drug type or dosage is required to adequately treat the meningitis. Continue antibiotic treatment for 2 weeks after sterilization of the CSF or for a minimum of 2 weeks with gram-positive meningitis and 3 weeks with gram-negative meningitis.  Consultation with an infectious disease specialist can be helpful in such situations.

Meningitis complicated by seizures or persistent positive cultures may require extended intravenous antimicrobial therapy. Chloramphenicol or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole has been shown to be effective in the treatment of highly resistant bacterial meningitis. Note that trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole should not be used if hyperbilirubinemia and kernicterus are of concern in the newborn.

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