Viruses are found to be the most common cause of meningitis but diagnosis is often delayed

Viruses are found to be the most common cause of meningitis but diagnosis is often delayed

- The study by researchers at the University of Liverpool's Institute of Infection and Global Health, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, funded by Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) and the National Institute for Health Research, studied the diagnosis and treatment of more than 1000 patients with suspected meningitis.

- It was found that diagnosis of meningitis is often delayed due to unnecessary brain scans being performed before lumbar puncture -- which is the essential investigation to determine the cause of the illness.

- Recommendations in national guidelines urge doctors to perform a lumbar puncture within the first hour in patients with suspected meningitis unless the patient has particular symptoms which make it unsafe to.

- Patients in the new study who were investigated promptly with lumbar puncture were also more likely to have a specific cause of the meningitis identified, and to spend less time in hospital.

- Dr Mike Griffiths, senior investigator on the study, added, "Diagnosing a specific cause of meningitis quickly is key to getting patients on the right antibiotics, if needed, or avoiding unnecessary antibiotics in those with viral meningitis.

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