Bacterial meningitis is one of the most serious infections in infants and children, with considerable morbidity and mortality. Despite the spreading of conjugated vaccines against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), the most important pneumococcal serotypes and serogroup C meningococcus has reduced the incidence of this infection in developed countries, it still remains a global public health problem and an important cause of mortality and disability. Whether corticosteroids should be used as a complementary therapy to antibacterials is still not clear because of the disparate findings from clinical trials and clinical evidence. The aim of this review is to analyze the available evidence on the impact of corticosteroid therapy in infants and children with bacterial meningitis in developed countries in order to define whether they should be added routinely in the empiric therapy of such disease. Our analysis concluded that in high-income countries dexamethasone has shown good results to prevent hearing loss in Hib meningitis if administered before or at the same time as the first dose of antibiotics. Dexamethasone should be evaluated in pneumococcal meningitis: it may be less beneficial in children with delayed presentation to medical attention and may be unfavourable in case of cephalosporin-resistant pneumococci. On the contrary, there is no evidence to recommend the use of corticosteroids in meningococcal meningitis. Further studies that take into account the epidemiologic changes of recent years, consider enrolment based on the onset of symptoms and evaluate outcomes such as hearing loss and neurologic sequelae with advanced techniques are urgently needed.
- Haemophilus influenzae type b
- Neisseria meningitidis
- Streptococcus pneumoniae
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health