WEDNESDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Using the anti-inflammatory drug dexamethasone along with antibiotics increases the chance of surviving a bout with bacterial meningitis, Dutch researchers report.
"Dexamethasone therapy reduces mortality from bacterial meningitis by one-third," said lead researcher Dr. Diederik van de Beek, a clinical neurologist from the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam.
"That's a huge effect," he added. "Normally, the death rate of bacterial meningitis is 30 percent; if you use dexamethasone, it decreases to 20 percent."
The report is published in the Sept. 29 online edition and the Oct. 26 print issue of Neurology.
For the study, van de Beek's team collected data on 357 people 16 and older who had bacterial meningitis between 2006 and 2009. Of these patients, 84 percent were given a dose of dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, before antibiotic treatment was started.
The researchers compared the outcomes of these patients with 352 patients treated for bacterial meningitis between 1998 and 2002, before dexamethasone was routinely given for the infection. Among these patients, only 3 percent had been given dexamethasone, the researchers noted.
Deaths among those given dexamethasone in the 2006-2009 study group were 10 percent lower than for those in the early study group. In addition, hearing loss was almost 10 percent lower for people in the 2006-2009 study group compared with the earlier group, the investigators found.
"If you extrapolate these findings to the U.S., if you treat all patients with bacterial meningitis with dexamethasone, that would save one life every day," van de Beek said.
Guidelines in the United States recommend the use of dexamethasone for suspected cases of bacterial meningitis, he added.
Jeffrey Cirillo, an associate professor of microbial and molecular pa
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