Adult meningitis caused by herpes viruses

Diagnosing and treating viral meningitis

Scientific version
  • Researchers:
    Dr Bahram Ebrahimi, Dr David McKee, Dr Ed Wilkins, Dr Ian Hart, Dr Nicholas Beeching, Dr Paul Klapper, Prof Mike Levin, Prof Tom Solomon
  • Start Date:
    04 April 2011
  • Category:
  • Location:
    Liverpool University, Liverpool, UK
Adult meningitis caused by herpes viruses
Meningitis can be caused by viruses or bacteria. Whilst we know the best treatment for bacterial meningitis, doctors are unclear on the best treatment for viral meningitis as it has been relatively neglected in terms of research.

However, it is still an important cause of illness. Some patients that recover from meningitis keep having further attacks (relapses) for years ahead; others have memory and concentration problems. Herpes viruses (herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 and varicella zoster virus) are among the most common causes of viral meningitis, but other viruses, particularly enteroviruses are also important, and in many patients the cause is not known.

The antiviral drug aciclovir is useful for some diseases caused by herpes viruses, e.g. shingles. However we don’t know if this drug is good for meningitis. Hence some doctors admit all adults with viral meningitis to hospital for aciclovir, whilst others say this is unnecessary and risks side effects. Instead they send patients home.

This study will look at adults with suspected viral meningitis in the North West Region of England. Researchers will see how much meningitis is due to herpes viruses, how long patients have symptoms, how long it takes to recover and what the costs are to the patient and also to society. They will also use new molecular techniques to try and improve diagnosis. With better data on herpes virus meningitis, they will then plan a future treatment trial.

Paula Scarlett, an MRF member who herself had viral meningitis in 2010 is on the steering committee for the trial. Her role is to be a patient representative and make sure that the study is conducted with the patients in mind.

MRF is funding the Meningitis North West study. On the research group’s website you can find more information about the study, including regular newsletters with updates on how work is progressing.

First year update - April 2012

One year into work, this project has successfully set up 23 research sites at different hospitals in the North West of England and has recruited over 140 patients.

Fiona McGill who is co-ordinating the study from University of Liverpool said,“Of the first 85 cases, we had 39 control patients, 36 cases of aseptic or viral meningitis and 10 cases of bacterial meningitis. Most people are agreeing to have extra samples taken for the future diagnostic work looking at DNA and genes. Also, the response rate of people to the questionnaires looking at quality of life, brain functioning and health economics is good.”

Members visit - July 2012

On 2nd July, we had a great visit to Liverpool to see the work that Professor Tom Solomon and his team are doing. It was a great chance to meet many of the research nurses recruiting patients and also ask questions about viral meningitis and why this study is important.

It was an especially interesting day for two members Paula and Sarah, who have both had viral meningitis. You can read more about the day here.
Members visit Liverpool University
Members visit Liverpool University

Research nurse update day - January 2013

With recruitment happening at 30 hospitals across the North West there are a lot of Research Nurses involved in this study. This day was designed to give them a chance to meet together and get an update on progress and raise any problems.

Gill, our Research Officer, was asked to attend and give a short presentation about MRF and the importance of this project to many of our members. There is much less information about viral meningitis when compared to bacterial meningtis and this study should start to provide some answers to the many questions people have.

Book of Experience

Zoe McCallum

Viral meningitis

I was convinced I was close to death

» Read this story

Book of Experience

Paula Richardson

Viral meningitis

It was the scariest thing I have ever had to experience

» Read this story
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