Recurrent bacterial meningitis in children in the Netherlands: a nationwide surveillance study

BMJ Open. 2023 Dec 30;13(12):e077887. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2023-077887.


Objectives: This study aimed to estimate the recurrence rate of culture-positive bacterial meningitis in children in the Netherlands.

Design: Nationwide surveillance study, using the database of the Netherlands Reference Laboratory for Bacterial Meningitis to identify patients with culture-positive bacterial meningitis during childhood.

Setting: The study was based in the Netherlands.

Participants: A total of 9731 children with a first bacterial meningitis episode between 1 July 1987 and 30 June 2019 were identified.

Primary and secondary outcome measures: Recurrence was defined as a subsequent episode >28 days, or caused by a different pathogen. Annual incidence and incidence rate ratios (IRRs) comparing the periods 1988-2003 and 2004-2019 were calculated. Predictors of recurrent meningitis were assessed using Cox proportional hazards regression.

Results: Sixty-three (0.6%) of the 9731 children with a first bacterial meningitis episode contracted recurrent meningitis. Neisseria meningitidis was the leading pathogen for first meningitis episodes (52%) and Streptococcus pneumoniae for recurrent episodes (52%). The median annual incidence of first episodes per 100 000 children decreased from 11.81 (IQR 11.26-17.60) in 1988-2003 to 2.60 (IQR 2.37-4.07) in 2004-2019 (IRR 0.25, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.26). The incidence of recurrences did not change: 0.06 (IQR 0.02-0.11) in 1988-2003 to 0.03 (IQR 0.00-0.06) in 2004-2019 (IRR 0.65, 95% CI 0.39 to 1.1). Age above 5 years (OR 3.6 (95% CI 1.5 to 8.3)) and a first episode due to Escherichia coli (OR 25.7 (95% CI 7.2 to 92.0)) were associated with higher risks of recurrence.

Conclusion: The recurrence rate of childhood bacterial meningitis in the Netherlands was 0.6%. While the incidence rate of first episodes decreased substantially, this was not the case for recurrent episodes. Older age and a first episode due to E. coli were associated with higher recurrence risks.

Keywords: BACTERIOLOGY; EPIDEMIOLOGIC STUDIES; INFECTIOUS DISEASES; Infectious disease/HIV; Paediatric neurology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Escherichia coli
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Meningitis, Bacterial* / epidemiology
  • Neisseria meningitidis*
  • Nervous System Malformations*
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae