By: 14 November 2017
New tool to help save young infants from deadly meningitis

At Meningitis Research Foundation’s (MRF) 2017 conference in London, the charity has launched a teaching package including a neonatal eTool to better equip doctors and health professionals to rapidly diagnose and treat bacterial meningitis in young infants.  

Young infants are at higher risk of life threatening meningitis than any other age group. Newborn babies are particularly susceptible to meningitis caused by Group B streptococcal (GBS) bacteria, E. coli or Listeria. The early symptoms of meningitis can resemble many other less serious childhood illnesses, but a baby ill with meningitis will usually get worse very quickly.

Experts at St George’s University of London, in a study funded by MRF1, found that bacterial meningitis in infants may not be being diagnosed or acted on quickly enough by medical professionals. There was found to be a lack of recognition of the signs and symptoms by GPs and in hospital; delays in starting antibiotics; choice of antibiotics not following NICE guidelines; and delays in performing lumbar puncture, which is essential for correct diagnosis of bacterial meningitis.

Speaking at MRF’s conference, Professor Paul Heath from St George’s University of London said, “There are many challenges we face in defeating meningitis in babies under three months of age. Our study highlighted the difficulties in diagnosing this condition as well as variations in treatment across the UK. It is clear that better recognition and management is essential if lives are to be saved and complications of meningitis minimised.”

Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of MRF said, “With babies being one of the most at risk groups for bacterial meningitis, we are dedicated to helping improve diagnosis and treatment in this vulnerable age group. Research is highlighting why it is so difficult for parents and health professionals alike to recognise the non-specific symptoms in young infants, and more importantly what can be done about it.”

“The study by experts at St George’s recommended a targeted campaign for education and harmonisation of practice. In response, MRF has worked with the study investigators and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to create a teaching package to aid best practice. The educational package has been piloted by paediatricians and we hope that it can ultimately improve outcomes for young infants and their families.”

This new package includes an eTool to help clinicians recognise clinical features of bacterial meningitis in young infants; a lumbar puncture information sheet to help doctors explain this procedure to parents; and an algorithm to aid management of bacterial meningitis. The eTool is available at:



  1. Okike IO, Ladhani SN, Anthony M, et al. Assessment of healthcare delivery in the early management of bacterial meningitis in UK young infants: an observational study. BMJ Open 2017;7:e015700. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015700