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Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal:
doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000000210
Original Studies

Bacterial Meningitis in Malawian Infants <2 Months of Age: Etiology and Susceptibility to World Health Organization First-Line Antibiotics

Swann, Olivia MB ChB*†; Everett, Dean B. PhD‡§; Furyk, Jeremry S. MB BS; Harrison, Ewen M. PhD; Msukwa, Malango T. BSc; Heyderman, Robert S. PhD‡**; Molyneux, Elizabeth M. FRCPCH*

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Abstract

Background: Neonatal meningitis is an important cause of morbidity in sub-Saharan Africa and requires urgent empiric treatment with parenteral administered antibiotics. Here we describe the etiology, antimicrobial susceptibility and suitability of the World Health Organization first-line recommended antibiotics (penicillin and gentamicin) for bacterial meningitis in young infants in Malawi.

Methods: We reviewed all cerebrospinal fluid samples received from infants ≤2 months of age with clinically suspected meningitis between January 1, 2002, and December 31, 2008, at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.

Results: We identified 259 culture-positive isolates from 259 infants ≤2 months of age. Sixty isolates were from neonates ≤7 days old, in whom the most common pathogens were Group B Streptococcus (27/60; 45.0%), Streptococcus pneumoniae (13/60; 21.7%) and nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica (7/60; 11.7%). One hundred and ninety one isolates were from young infants who were >7 days and ≤2 months of age. In this group, the most common isolates were S. pneumoniae (80/191; 41.9%), Group B Streptococcus (38/191; 19.9%) and nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica (34/191; 17.8%). More isolates were susceptible to ceftriaxone than to the combination of penicillin and gentamicin (218/220; 99.1% vs. 202/220; 91.8%, Fisher’s exact test P = 0.006). In particular, Gram-negative isolates were significantly more susceptible to ceftriaxone than to gentamicin (72/74; 97.3% vs. 63/74; 85.1%, Fisher’s exact test P = 0.020). Penicillin and gentamicin provided less coverage for Gram-negative than Gram-positive isolates (74/86; 86.0% vs. 155/163; 95.1%, χ2 = 6.24, P = 0.012).

Conclusions: In view of these results, the World Health Organization recommendations for empiric penicillin and gentamicin for suspected neonatal meningitis should be reevaluated.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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