The burden of bacterial meningitis in newborn babies in the UK and Ireland: establishing standards of care to improve the outcome

Meningitis in the first three months of life.

Scientific version
  • Researchers:
    Catherine Goodall, Dr Alan Johnson, Dr Ifeanyichukwu Okike, Dr Mark Anthony, Dr Nelly Ninis, Professor Paul Heath
  • Start Date:
    01 February 2010
  • Category:
  • Location:
    Health Protection Agency, Salisbury, UK, Birmingham Women’s Hospital, Birmingham, UK, St George's University of London, London, UK, St Mary’s Hospital, London, UK
The burden of bacterial meningitis in newborn babies in the UK and Ireland: establishing standards of care to improve the outcome

This vitally important study will help scientists measure the impact of bacterial meningitis in newborn babies and to develop guidelines to improve management and treatment in hospital. This will ultimately improve the outcome for babies in the future.

The risk of developing meningitis is highest in the newborn period. This is still a very serious illness despite availability of antibiotics for treatment. There are currently no vaccines against the main bacteria that cause meningitis in this age group (Group B Streptococcus and E coli). It is therefore important to find ways of improving current management.

What do we know now?

Preliminary information from the first part of this study between 2010 and 2011 showed that the number of cases has not decreased over time and sadly babies still die and some have severe consequences.

How do we take this knowledge forward?

Currently this group are recruiting into a healthcare delivery study where the management of each case of neonatal meningitis will be examined in detail. This will be added to the data already collected in the first part of the study which looked at just the number of cases and their causes.

The researchers are now specifically interested in the onset and progression of the problems as they are first noted by parents before hospital admission/diagnosis, the type of help sought and parental experience of hospital management.

They will also review each case’s medical notes in details to find out how they were managed in terms of timing of antibiotics, use of fluids and other types of therapy, complications and follow-up. This will provide important information for developing evidence based guidelines for the management of future cases.

Previous studies in England showed that about half of babies that suffered bacterial meningitis in their first month of life in the 1980s and 1990s developed some form of neuro-developmental problems at 5 year follow-up. This group therefore propose contacting the babies recruited to this current study at 2 years of age to assess their development, in order to see if this is still the case.

Professor Paul Heath on why we should be studying neonatal meningitis

Publications and presentations

Along with our own events and conferences, Professor Paul Heath and his team have presented the initial results of this work at several scientific conferences around the world, including the World and European Societies of Paediatric Infectious Diseases, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and various hospital meetings.

Incidence, etiology, and outcome of bacterial meningitis in infants aged <90 days in the United kingdom and Republic of Ireland: prospective, enhanced, national population-based surveillance. Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Nov 15;59(10):e150-7

Empirical antibiotic cover for Listeria monocytogenes infection beyond the neonatal period: a time for change? Arch Dis Child doi:10.1136/archdischild-2014-307059

MRF international conference 2011

This project was presented as a talk by Professor Paul Heath at our biannual scientific conference in London, which was attended by leading experts in meningitis and septicaemia from around the world.

Dr Okike also presented a scientific poster showing some of the initial results of the work.

MRF Meningitis Symposium 2014

Each year, MRF hold a scientific symposium in Bristol on the latest advances in meningitis and septicaemia.

In June 2014, Dr Okike presented a talk about this project and neonatal meningitis

Meet the researchers

Paul Heath Paul Heath is a Professor/Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Infectious Diseases at St George’s, University of London and Vaccine Institute in London. His training in paediatrics and infectious diseases was at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford and St George’s Hospital, London. His particular research interests are in the epidemiology of vaccine preventable diseases, in clinical vaccine trials, particularly in at-risk groups, and in perinatal infections. He coordinates a national neonatal infection surveillance network (neonIN) and currently a national study on neonatal meningitis. He sits on national committees concerned with meningitis, Group B streptococcus prevention, pneumococcal and Hib infections, neonatal infections and on immunisation policies in children. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, a member of the committee for Scientific Affairs and Awards of the European Society of Paediatric Infectious Diseases and a member of the steering committee of the international Brighton Collaboration on vaccine safety.

Ifeanyichukwu Okike at MRF Meningitis Symposium 2011Ifeanyichukwu Okike is a Clinical Research Fellow at Child Health & St George’s Vaccine Institute London. He is responsible for coordinating the MRF-funded bacterial meningitis in babies 0-90 days of age: burden of disease (BPSU) and healthcare delivery study (Neomen).

Dr Okike obtained his medical degree from Uludag University in Bursa, Turkey and did his Internship in Turkey and University Hospital Leuven, Belgium. He is currently undertaking this Neomen study as part of an MD (Res) with St George’s, University of London and forms part of his Specialist Registrar training in Paediatrics.

Book of Experience

Amber Rose Harris

Group B Strep meningitis

One day she was healthy and full of beans and the next she was fighting for her life.

» Read this story

Member visit - March 2012

Our members, including newly appointed MRF Ambassadors for London enjoyed a really interesting and informative trip to St George's Hospital to learn more about this research. Many had personal experience as parents of children with neonatal meningitis.

You can read more about the visit on our Patient and Public Involvement pages here.
MRF Ambassador Onaiza and staff member Linda, talking to Professor Paul Heath during our members visit
MRF Ambassador Onaiza and staff member Linda, talking to Professor Paul Heath during our members visit

Book of Experience

Harrison Grahame

Group B Strep meningitis

He is a miracle and we are so proud of him for fighting back

» Read this story
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