Recognition, Treatment and Complications of Meningococcal Disease

Andrew, F.; Riordan, I.; Thomson, A.P.J.
October 1999
Pediatric Drugs;Oct-Dec1999, Vol. 1 Issue 4, p263
Academic Journal
Meningococcal disease remains a major cause of death in young children. A decrease in mortality requires recognition and treatment of the disease at a number of stages in the illness. Life-threatening meningococcal disease usually presents as septicaemia rather than meningitis. The cardinal feature of meningococcal septicaemia is the purpuric rash. Many parents recognise the rash and seek medical advice because of it. When primary care physicians recognise the rash, the administration of parenteral penicillin may decrease mortality. However, antibacterials are not given promptly if there is no rash or if the disease presents in an atypical form. In hospital, antibacterial therapy with a third-generation cephalosporin should be given. Disease severity needs to be assessed by a valid method, such as the Glasgow Meningococcal Septicaemia Prognostic Score (GMSPS). This can identify those patients who need intensive care and/or might benefit from new therapies. The 2 life-threatening complications are septic shock and meningoencephalitis with raised intracranial pressure. Despite numerous case reports of success with potential new treatments, none has been proven safe and/or effective by controlled trials. Although it is tempting to focus on new treatments, the early recognition of severe meningococcal disease by parents, primary care physicians and junior hospital doctors is equally, if not more, important as a potential means of decreasing mortality.


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