Meningitis is more common in the neonatal period than any other time in life and is an important cause of morbidity and mortality globally. Despite the majority of the burden occurring in the developing world, the majority of the existing literature originates from wealthy countries. Mortality from neonatal meningitis in developing countries is estimated to be 40-58%, against 10% in developed countries. Important differences exist in the spectrum of pathogens isolated from cerebrospinal fluid cultures in developed versus developing countries. Briefly, while studies in developed countries have generally found Group B streptococcus (GBS), Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes as important organisms, we describe how in the developing world results have varied; particularly regarding GBS, other Gram negatives (excluding E. coli), Listeria and Gram-positive organisms. The choice of empiric antibiotics should take into consideration local epidemiology if known, early versus late disease, resistance patterns and availability within resource constraints. Gaps in knowledge, the role of adjuvant therapies and future directions for research are explored.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.