Bacterial meningitis is a severe form of meningitis particularly for infants and also for the elderly. Before the use of antibiotics, fatality rate was as high as 70 percent and with the use of antibiotics this has come down to about 15 percent. Three bacteria cause most of the cases. They are Haemophilus influenzae, Neisseria meningitidis and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Pneumococcal meningitis is caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae and generally known to strike infants and the elderly. 5 to 10 percent cases turn out to be fatal. If it is associated with any other disease, the rate can be as high as 20-40 percent.
Streptococcus pneumoniae was identified as the main cause of pneumonia in late 19th century. In addition to pneumonia, it is known to cause other infections such as acute sinusitis, otitis media, meningitis etc.
The organism was initially isolated simultaneously by George Sternberg, a U.S. army physician and the French chemist Louis Pasteur in 1881 and was named pneumococcus. Subsequently in 1926 the name got changed to Diplococcus pneumoniae because of its appearance in Gram-stained sputum. Later when its growth in liquid media was identified, it was renamed as Streptococcus pneumoniae in 1974.
The bacteria invade the meninges via the blood stream. The symptoms develop rather slowly in streptococcus pneumococcal meningitis. The symptoms include fever, irritability, lethargy, anorexia and malaise. A bulging fontanelle is observed in infants. Some experience seizures. The complications include loss of hearing, learning disabilities, mental difficulties and palsies. The risk of death and neurological disabilities is more in this type of meningitis.
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