The true burden of sepsis and meningitis

January 2020

New research from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has quite rightly reminded everyone again of the importance of tackling sepsis as a global health issue.

The World Health Organization (WHO) already has an extensive sepsis programme which extends across multiple teams and is backed by a 2017 World Health Assembly resolution on sepsis. But more can and should be done. The research highlights that the burden of sepsis often falls on the youngest and on families in resource-poor setting around the world. This is particularly important for MRF because sepsis and meningitis are often related and impossible to distinguish in the very youngest and in settings where access to healthcare and diagnostic tests is scarce. As meningitis and sepsis are deadly responses to infection, often caused by the same bacteria, prevention, treatment and support for both are intertwined.

Recognising this, WHO has lead a process over the past 3 years which MRF has been involved in throughout, to develop a new global roadmap for meningitis that also considers relevant related sepsis issues at the same time. Supporting the message within this new report, the latest draft of the roadmap highlights again that meningitis related sepsis is identified as a serious issue globally leading to death, and extensive impairment, including limb loss.

Attendees of the 2019 Wilton Park meeting, defining the steps required to defeat meningitis by 2030.

Thankfully the new roadmap has a focus on trying to prevent infection from the main bacteria that can cause meningitis related sepsis. It also sets out practical steps to ensuring the right surveillance, diagnosis and treatment and support and after care are in place for those who have been infected.

For example, the latest draft has an ambitious goal that by 2022 new studies will be published on the performance of blood testing to diagnose meningitis/sepsis in low and middle income countries especially in the African meningitis belt. On top of this, by 2023 meningitis and sepsis awareness campaigns will take place in 80% of priority countries.

Sepsis is a globally important, life-threatening and life limiting condition for millions and the relationship between meningitis and sepsis means thinking of them together is often helpful. This year we look forward to another major step in defeating these diseases through the WHO’s global roadmap, Defeating Meningitis by 2030.

Dr Fiona McGill answers one of our most frequently asked questions.
Meningitis and septicaemia are serious, life threatening illnesses

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About the author

Vinny Smith
Chief Executive

Besides meeting my wife and having two wonderful kids, leading MRF is the greatest privilege of my life.

Since joining in 2015 I’ve helped develop and launch a new brand identity, new website and a new strategy. We’ve held governments to account on vaccine policy and called for and achieved a new World Health Organisation global task force for meningitis to 2030.
Tel: 0333 405 6262