WHO Lists the Meningitis Causing Bacteria that are Becoming Resistant to Antibiotics

22 Aug 2017
WHO Lists the Meningitis Causing Bacteria that are Becoming Resistant to Antibiotics

For many years antibiotics have been used to treat bacterial meningitis but some bacteria are becoming resistant to the effects of antibiotics.

In an effort to jumpstart and guide the research and development of new antibiotics, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a list of 12 types of bacteria for which new antibiotics are most urgently needed.

Many of the bacteria included in the list compiled by WHO can be causes of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia. These are:

  • Salmonellae - a significant cause of neonatal meningitis
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Haemophilus influenza
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Enterobacteriaceae – although this is part of the healthy gut, some versions of it are drug-resistant, including KPC (Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase) and can cause neonatal meningitis


Meningitis Research Foundation welcomes this new drive by WHO. With antibiotic resistance becoming a growing threat to human health, it’s now more important than ever to have strategies for both treatment and prevention of these diseases at our disposal.

Although we do not yet have vaccines available to protect against all types of bacteria that can cause meningitis, the vaccines that we do have available are already proving their worth in preventing disease, for example the Haemophilus influenza b (Hib vaccine) and the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV-13 vaccine) that protects against 13 strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae.

The introduction of the Hib conjugate vaccine has virtually eliminated Hib disease in regions where it has been widely deployed. Likewise in regions where pneumococcal vaccination is routinely used there has also been a marked decrease in cases of disease caused by antibiotic resistant strains.

It has been estimated that introduction of Hib conjugate and PCV-13 to 75 developing world countries could reduce antibiotic use for these diseases by 47% and avert 11.4 million days of antibiotic use in children younger than five years old each year.

Find out more about the WHO list of antibiotic-resistant "priority pathogens": http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/bacteria-antibiotics-needed/en/

Vaccines to prevent meningitis

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