Meningitis: An unexpected adverse effect of antibiotics

Another recent case-control study examining the effects of antimicrobial prescribing on the microbiome and how it affects human health has recently been published. This study aimed to determine if antibiotic prescriptions in the previous year resulted in an increased risk of meningitis.

The theory behind the study was that disruption to the microbiome could increase rates of Neisseria meningitidis in the nasopharynx or disrupt the immune system resulting in increased susceptibility to both viral and bacterial meningitis.

A large primary care database was reviewed for cases and controls. Although several confounders, such as co-morbidities, were identified it was determined that antibiotic prescription in the previous year was associated with an increased risk of meningitis.

While the exact mechanisms causing the increased risk can not be determined by this study the size of the association warrants further research. The study is available here.

As more research is done in this area additional risk factors associated with antimicrobial prescribing will continue to be identified. Until we know exactly how the microbiome, antibiotics and human health interact it is not possible to determine all the risks linked to overuse of antibiotics.

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