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Short-term and long-term risk of mortality and neurodevelopmental impairments after bacterial meningitis during infancy

Snoek L, Gonçalves BP, Horváth-Puhó E, van Kassel MN, Procter SR, Søgaard KK, Chandna J, van der Ende A, van de Beek D, Brouwer MC, Sørensen HT, Lawn JE, Bijlsma MW. Short-term and long-term risk of mortality and neurodevelopmental impairments after bacterial meningitis during infancy in children in Denmark and the Netherlands: a nationwide matched cohort study. Lancet Child Adolesc Health. 2022 Sep;6(9):633-642. doi: 10.1016/S2352-4642(22)00155-9. Epub 2022 Jul 5. PMID: 35798010; PMCID: PMC9365703.

Abstract

Background

Few studies have reported the long-term consequences of bacterial meningitis during infancy, and studies that have been done usually do not include a comparison cohort. We aimed to assess short-term and long-term risk of mortality, neurodevelopmental impairment (NDI), and health-care use and household income in cohorts of children with and without a history of bacterial meningitis during infancy in Denmark and the Netherlands.

Methods

In this nationwide cohort study, infants with a history of bacterial meningitis before age 1 year were identified through the Danish Medical Birth Registry and Danish National Patient Registry using International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 codes and through the Netherlands Reference Laboratory for Bacterial Meningitis. Infants were matched (1:10) by sex and birth month and year to a comparison cohort of the general population without a history of bacterial meningitis. We analysed mortality using Cox proportional hazards regression. In Denmark, diagnoses of NDIs were based on ICD-10 codes; in the Netherlands, special educational needs were used as a functional NDI outcome. Risk ratios (RRs) of NDIs were estimated using modified Poisson regression. We also analysed long-term health-care use in Denmark and household income in both countries. All regression analyses were adjusted for sex and year of birth, and stratified by pathogen whenever sample size allowed.

Findings

We included 2216 children with a history of bacterial meningitis (570 [25·7%] in Denmark between Jan 1, 1997, and Dec 31, 2018, and 1646 [74·3%] in the Netherlands between Jan 1, 1995, and Dec 31, 2018), matched to 22 127 comparison cohort members. Median age at diagnosis was 2·8 months (IQR 0·4–7·1) in Denmark and 4·3 months (0·7–7·4) in the Netherlands. Mortality risks within 3 months after disease onset were 3·9% (95% CI 2·6–5·8%) in Denmark and 5·9% (4·7–7·0) in the Netherlands, compared with 0·0% (p<0·0001) and 0·1% (p<0·0001) in the comparison cohorts. Survivors had an increased risk of moderate or severe NDIs at age 10 years (RR 5·0 [95% CI 3·5–7·1] in Denmark and 4·9 [4·0–6·2] in the Netherlands) compared to children in the comparison cohort, particularly after pneumococcal and group B streptococcal meningitis. In Denmark, a history of bacterial meningitis was associated with increased health-care use in the 10 years following diagnosis (rate ratio 4·5 [95% CI 3·9–5·2] for outpatient visits and 4·1 [3·6–4·7] for hospital admissions).

Interpretation

Our study shows increased risk of mortality in the short and long term, a five times increase in risk of NDIs, and increased health-care use after bacterial meningitis during infancy. Together with context-specific incidence data, our results can advance pathogen-specific estimation of the meningitis burden and inform service provision at the individual and population level.

Funding

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Stichting Remmert Adriaan Laan Fonds, and the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development.
 
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