MRF plays integral role in life-saving guideline

MRF plays integral role in life-saving guideline

23 June 2010

National Charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is supporting a new guideline published today (June 23) which says prompt recognition of the signs and symptoms of bacterial meningitis and meningococcal disease is the key to preventing the deaths of children and young people.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is an independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance on public health, health technologies and clinical practice - the latter offering guidance on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases, such as meningitis.

Linda Glennie, Head of Research and Medical Information at MRF, is a member of this NICE Guideline Development Group and has been closely involved in drafting the new guideline since February 2008.

She said: “The guideline aims to help save lives by giving frontline healthcare professionals, and families and carers of children and young people, the knowledge and confidence to recognise symptoms and signs of bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia, and to seek appropriate clinical care.”

She added: “It will also improve the outlook for children who survive with disability because it is the first guideline to formalise recommendations for assessing children for after effects and referring them for follow-up care where this is needed”

More than 1000 children suffer from bacterial meningitis each year. Meningococcal disease is still the leading infectious cause of death in early childhood - up to 20% of children who contract severe meningococcal septicaemia die, usually within 24 hours of the first symptoms appearing, and frequently before receiving specialist care.

MRF is encouraging health care professionals and parents to familiarise themselves with the guideline which covers:
  • Symptoms and signs of bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia
  • Management in the pre-hospital setting including transfers of those with suspected diseases to secondary care as an emergency by telephoning 999
  • Clearly separate treatment pathways for meningitis and for septicaemia
  • Ongoing management in hospital, including use of antibiotics, treatment for specific infections, monitoring for deterioration
  • Assessment and appropriate referral for the long-term effects of bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia
  • The guideline will ensure all NHS Trusts have the same information about how to assess and treat children with suspected meningitis or septicaemia. Importantly it also encourages parents to trust their instincts and seek medical help if they think their child is ill enough, and advises doctors to consider a parent’s concern about their child’s symptoms when assessing a sick child. This in turn will reassure parents and carers that the care they are receiving is based on the most up-to-date clinical evidence.

MRF is delighted to see this authoritative guideline published, which formalises and extends widely-used protocols the charity has been producing to help health professionals since the late 1990s. Doctors can now have the confidence that these treatment guidelines are firmly based on the most exhaustive review of all of the evidence, as the NICE process guarantees.

Professor Andrew Pollard, a specialist in paediatric infectious diseases and Chair of the Guideline Development Group, said: “The guideline does not direct major changes in clinical practice but builds on and clarifies practice guidelines which have been widely used since the late 1990s. The guideline provides the evidence base for the recommendations and should provide firm and authoritative guidance for junior doctors faced with management of these seriously ill children for the first time.”

MRF operate a Freefone 24 hour helpline – 080 8800 3344 – providing information on meningitis and septicaemia to the general public and health professionals. Information is also available on this website.

Media contact: Leah Whiting on 01454 280416 or email:


About Meningitis Research Foundation
  • Meningitis Research Foundation is currently funding 26 research projects into the prevention, detection and treatment of meningitis and septicaemia. The Foundation has spent £16 million on research since its inception in 1988
  • The Foundation produces symptoms information for parents and the public, and widely used and professionally endorsed protocols and educational resources for doctors and nurses
  • The Foundation offers support for those affected by meningitis and septicaemia. Trained helpline staff are available 365 days a year. A befriender service links people with experience of meningitis and septicaemia to share their experiences and counsel each other

About bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia
  • Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the lining around the brain (meninges) by bacteria that have usually travelled there from the nose and throat via the bloodstream. These bacteria can cause both meningitis and septicaemia and are still a significant cause of mortality in children and young people.
  • Septicaemia (blood poisoning) is caused when bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiply uncontrollably.
  • Although a successful vaccine against the ‘C’ form of meningitis exists, there is currently no licensed vaccine in the UK against the ‘B’ form of the disease.
  • The bacteria causing meningococcal disease (N.meningitidis) is carried in the nose by roughlty 10% of the population and is usually harmless. However, in a small minority of those who encounter the bacteria for the first time, meningitis, septicaemia or both can occur.
  • Children younger than 9 years are the most at risk of contracting bacterial meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia and it is the most common infectious cause of death in children aged between 1 and 5 years.
  • Typical presentations of meningitis vary depending on age. Common features in children and young people include fever, vomiting, headache, neck stiffness, photophobia, confusion, drowsiness and fits. Young babies may be irritable often with a high-pitched cry refuse to feed, appear stiff or floppy and have a bulging soft-spot on the top of their head, . Children and young people with septicaemia present with fever, vomiting, cold hands and feet, limb pain, shivering, pale or mottled skin, fast breathing, rash, confusion and drowsiness.
About the guideline
  • The NICE guideline on Meningitis, including a version for patients and carers, and corresponding implementation tools are available from the NICE website at:

Sam Williams
Media Relations Manager

Hi, I’m Sam and I’m MRF's PR Manager.

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