BACKGROUND: Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive bacteria transmitted to human by animal stools, contaminated water and food. In children, Listeria monocytogenes typically affects newborns and immunocompromised patients often leading to invasive syndromes including sepsis, brain abscesses, meningitis, meningoencephalitis and rhombencephalitis. In healthy and immunocompetent children, Listeria meningitis is rare, but can progress rapidly and may be associated with severe complications (hydrocephalus, ventriculitis, cranial nerves palsy and cerebrospinal abscesses) and high mortality rate.
CASE PRESENTATION: We describe a very uncommon case of meningoencephalitis due to Listeria monocytogenes in a 11-month-old immunocompetent girl. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) culture was positive on the second day. Antibiotic therapy was promptly started but the disease was complicated by neurological deterioration and decompensated hydrocephalus. The child required a very demanding pediatric and neurosurgical management and was discharged after 40 days without major sequelae.
CONCLUSION: Listeria is difficult to isolate and it is not susceptible to first-line treatment for bacterial meningitis with extended-spectrum cephalosporins. Early recognition is therefore crucial for a positive outcome. Pediatricians have to perform close clinical monitoring of these children and be aware of possible complications. A review of all cases of Listeria meningitis complicated by hydrocephalus in healthy children has been performed, to provide an overview on clinical features, treatment options and outcome.