The burden and epidemiology of community-acquired central nervous system infections: a multinational study

Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis. 2017 Sep;36(9):1595-1611. doi: 10.1007/s10096-017-2973-0. Epub 2017 Apr 10.


Risk assessment of central nervous system (CNS) infection patients is of key importance in predicting likely pathogens. However, data are lacking on the epidemiology globally. We performed a multicenter study to understand the burden of community-acquired CNS (CA-CNS) infections between 2012 and 2014. A total of 2583 patients with CA-CNS infections were included from 37 referral centers in 20 countries. Of these, 477 (18.5%) patients survived with sequelae and 227 (8.8%) died, and 1879 (72.7%) patients were discharged with complete cure. The most frequent infecting pathogens in this study were Streptococcus pneumoniae (n = 206, 8%) and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (n = 152, 5.9%). Varicella zoster virus and Listeria were other common pathogens in the elderly. Although staphylococci and Listeria resulted in frequent infections in immunocompromised patients, cryptococci were leading pathogens in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals. Among the patients with any proven etiology, 96 (8.9%) patients presented with clinical features of a chronic CNS disease. Neurosyphilis, neurobrucellosis, neuroborreliosis, and CNS tuberculosis had a predilection to present chronic courses. Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, M. tuberculosis, and S. pneumoniae were the most fatal forms, while sequelae were significantly higher for herpes simplex virus type 1 (p < 0.05 for all). Tackling the high burden of CNS infections globally can only be achieved with effective pneumococcal immunization and strategies to eliminate tuberculosis, and more must be done to improve diagnostic capacity.

Keywords: Adverse Clinical Outcome; Brain Abscess; Central Nervous System Disease; Central Nervous System Infection; Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Central Nervous System Infections / epidemiology*
  • Central Nervous System Infections / etiology
  • Central Nervous System Infections / mortality
  • Community-Acquired Infections / epidemiology*
  • Community-Acquired Infections / etiology
  • Community-Acquired Infections / mortality
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Young Adult