A study conducted by the University of Liverpool has revealed that a delay in the diagnosis of meningitis is impacting effective treatment of the disease in the UK.
In collaboration with the National Institute for Health Research, the university’s Institute of Infection and Global Health team found viruses to be the most common cause of meningitis in adults.
The research involved analysis of the diagnosis and treatment of more than 1,000 people with suspected meningitis.
It was observed that diagnosis of the condition is usually delayed because of unnecessary brain scans before lumbar puncture, which is necessary to identify the disease.
In turn, the late detection of meningitis is said to result in the inappropriate use of antibiotics, longer hospital stays and potential antimicrobial resistance.
The researchers additionally reported that patients undergoing early lumbar puncture are more likely diagnosed with a specific cause of meningitis, bacterial or viral, and thereby spend less time in hospital.
According to the researchers, determination of the specific cause of meningitis is necessary because antibiotics are required for illness caused by bacteria, whereas these medications do not affect viruses.
A prompt and accurate diagnosis is expected to help clinicians make the right treatment decisions early.
Study senior investigator Dr Mike Griffiths said: “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.
“Once viral meningitis has been diagnosed, efforts should focus on treatment of the symptoms and expediting discharge from hospital which would be less distressing for patients and ease pressures on the NHS.”