A screening method to diagnose bacterial meningitis.
- Provides improved accuracy in diagnosing meningitis compared to current methodologies.
- Does not require a lumbar puncture or culturing of bacterial cells, unlike current meningitis diagnostics.
Bacterial meningitis is caused by an infection of the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and is easily transmitted through mucosal or respiratory secretions. Such infections impact approximately 1,000 people annually (US), and are fatal in 10-14% of cases, most occurring in children, travelers, or those residing in communal environments such as dormitories. Beyond the United States, Meningitis is an epidemic in Africa, where occurrence can exist in up to 2% of the population causing thousands to die.
The bacteria that cause meningitis express specific antigens on their cell surface, which are used to classify particular bacterial strains. Current technologies utilize immunological reactivity of the antigens to diagnose a patient with meningitis, which can lead to inaccurate diagnoses due to diversity in antigen composition and reactivity. Emory investigators have created a potential diagnostic test that enables the identification of an individual patient's strain of meningitis using the nucleotide sequencing of these antigens. Compared to current diagnostics, which require a lumbar puncture to collect bacteria for live-cell culturing, this method is faster, more accurate, cost effective and does not require cell culturing. This reduces both risk of injury or infection to the patient as well as a physician or technician's exposure to the bacteria. Finally, this technology could also be applied to the development of improved meningitis vaccines.
Nucleotide variations among differing serogroups have been identified, and the researchers are continuing to work in this field.