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ObjectivesTo assess practice in the care of adults with suspected community-acquired bacterial meningitis in the UK and Ireland.DesignRetrospective cohort study.Setting64 UK and Irish hospitals.Participants1471 adults with community-acquired meningitis of any aetiology in 2017.ResultsNone of the audit standards, from the 2016 UK Joint Specialists Societies guideline on diagnosis and management of meningitis, were met in all cases. With respect to 20 of 30 assessed standards, clinical management provided for patients was in line with recommendations in less than 50% of cases. 45% of patients had blood cultures taken within an hour of admission, 0.5% had a lumbar puncture within 1 hour, 26% within 8 hours. 28% had bacterial molecular diagnostic tests on cerebrospinal fluid. Median time to first dose of antibiotics was 3.2 hours (IQR 1.3-9.2). 80% received empirical parenteral cephalosporins. 55% ≥60 years and 31% of immunocompromised patients received anti-Listeria antibiotics. 21% received steroids. Of the 1471 patients, 20% had confirmed bacterial meningitis. Among those with bacterial meningitis, pneumococcal aetiology, admission to intensive care and initial Glasgow Coma Scale Score less than 14 were associated with in-hospital mortality (adjusted OR (aOR) 2.08, 95% CI 0.96 to 4.48; aOR 4.28, 95% CI 1.81 to 10.1; aOR 2.90, 95% CI 1.26 to 6.71, respectively). Dexamethasone therapy was weakly associated with a reduction in mortality in both those with proven bacterial meningitis (aOR 0.57, 95% CI 0.28 to 1.17) and with pneumococcal meningitis (aOR 0.47, 95% CI 0.20 to 1.10).ConclusionThis study demonstrates that clinical care for patients with meningitis in the UK is not in line with current evidence-based national guidelines. Diagnostics and therapeutics should be targeted for quality improvement strategies. Work should be done to improve the impact of guidelines, understand why they are not followed and, once published, ensure they translate into changed practice.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ open

Publication Date





Research Department of Infection, Division of Infection and Immunity, University College London, London, UK.


National Audit of Meningitis Management (NAMM) group, Humans, Meningitis, Bacterial, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Retrospective Studies, Adult, Ireland, United Kingdom