Monday, December 17, 2007

Corticosteroids for bacterial meningitis

editorial Greenwood BM. NEJM 2007; 357:2507-08 (editorial) and (same issue)

Mai NTH et al. Dexamethasone in Vietnamese adolescents and adults with bacterial meningitis pp. 2431-2440


Scarborough M et al. Corticosteroids for bacterial meningitis in adults in subSaharan Africa pp. 2441-2450.

The prologue is that meta-analysis in industrialized countries showed that dexamethasone given to children with Hemophilus B type b meningitis before antibiotics reduces sequelae, especially hearing loss (McIntyre PB et al. Jama 1997; 278:925-931. Studies in adults in ind. countries also show a benefit (NEJM 2002; Lancet Inf Dis 2004). A trial of 598 children in Malawi, about one third of whom were infected with the HIV virus, showed "convincing evidence of lack of benefit." Most African pediatricians have accepted the result (Lancet 2002). The study above (Scarborough et al.) of adults age greater than 16 with acute bacterial meningitis given dexamethasone 16 mg bid for four days with ceftriaxone showed no benefit of dexamethasone on any endpoint. In contrast, the study by Mai et al. in Vietnam of 435 persons odler than 14 with .4 mg/kg dexamethasone for 4 days of placebo before ceftriaxone, showed benefits in some analyses on death, hearing loss in treated group (if TB patients are excluded). Notable was the strikingly higher mortality in Africa v. Vietnam (54 v. 11%) possibly due to HIV infection, or a different infection (Str pn in Malawi S. suis in Vietnam). A South American study showed no benefit of dexamethasone, but benefit of glycerol (Clin Infect Dis 2007, author Peltola et al.). Editorial concludes the focus should be on vaccines although dexamethasone might be used in the developed world.

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