Published: 08-03-2023 13:27 | Updated: 21-05-2024 11:10

Strides and recommendations in the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis with special focus on Africa

Books and a computer
Education ISAC Photo: Gettyimages.

In a study entitled "Bacterial Meningitis in Africa", recently published in Frontiers in Neurology as part of the Research Topic "Neuroimmunology in Africa", researchers raise awareness of strides and recommendations in the diagnosis, management and prevention of bacterial meningitis.

Portrait taken in 2022 at the Encephalitis Society meeting in London
Federico Iovino, Associate Professor and group leader at the Department of Neuroscience. Photo: Encephalitis Society

Bacterial meningitis is not only life-threatening, but also an infectious disease with dramatically high morbidity globally due to the permanent neurological sequelae experienced by most survivors. Africa has the most significant prevalence of bacterial meningitis illness.

What does your study show?

“Besides providing a comprehensive state-of-the art overview of the molecular mechanisms of meningitis onset caused by different bacterial etiologies, this study importantly outlines strides and recommendations in the diagnosis, management and prevention of each pathogen-caused meningitis”, explains Federico Iovino, Associate Professor and group leader at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet, and co-senior author of the study.

The review study brings forth the common etiologies of bacterial neuro-infectious diseases, diagnosis, the interplay between pathogens and the immune system, and the value of neuro-immune changes in diagnostics and therapeutics. 

Why are the results important?

Neuroimmunology is a young field and not yet fully established on the curriculum of institutes of higher learning on the African continent. Recently, with the help of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) and International Society of Neuroimmunology (ISNI) a few schools on neuroimmunology have been organized on the continent.

“This Research Topic of Frontiers in Neurology has pulled together reviews from within and outside Africa on the neuroimmunology of leading causes of disease burden in Africa as well as diseases endemic in Africa. The collection of articles in this theme could be used in the teaching of neuroimmunology in African universities”, says Federico Iovino.

The study was performed by an international team of principal investigators and researchers, each one with expertise on a specific bacterium-caused meningitis.

Federico Iovino’s expertise is on meningitis caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae (the pneumococcus), the main etiological cause of bacterial meningitis globally.

What is the next step?

“We hope that the whole article collection, will raise awareness on neuro-infections, for which therapeutic approaches are so dramatically needed, since therapeutic delivery into the brain is challenging and neurological damage caused by infection is permanent”.

Bacterial meningitis is defined as “devastating” by the World Health Organization. Even if the infection is successfully fought, survivors live with permanent neurological disabilities due to neuronal damage caused by the infection, since neurons, once damaged or killed, cannot be repaired nor replaced.

“The main aim of my laboratory is to exploit the knowledge we obtain on the molecular mechanisms of bacterial interaction with brain cells, in order to establish new therapeutic and prophylactic approaches to protect the brain against bacterial infections”, says Federico Iovino.


Bacterial meningitis in Africa
Barichello Tatiana, Rocha Catalão Carlos Henrique, Rohlwink Ursula K., Kuip Martijn van der, Zaharie Dan, Solomons Regan S., van Toorn Ronald, Tutu van Furth Marceline, Hasbun Rodrigo, Iovino Federico*, Namale Vivian Ssonko*. Frontiers in Neurology 2023; 14; DOI=10.3389/fneur.2023.822575 * Shared last authorship.