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New look at old test may provide earlier detection of meningitis, MU researchers find
Date:10/30/2013

COLUMBIA, Mo. ― Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found a more accurate method to screen for bacterial meningococcal infection in its early stages, when it's hardest to detect. According to the researchers, the method for diagnosis could save lives by getting patients treatment earlier, when the infection is most treatable.

While meningococcal infection is relatively rare, affecting approximately 2,500 people per year in the United States, it is a devastating disease. It kills seven to 15 percent of those who acquire the infection, and often causes permanent complications for survivors, such as brain damage and hearing loss. Many patients also require amputation of limbs because the disease can cause severe tissue damage to extremities.

Immediate treatment is important in meningococcal infection because it usually progresses rapidly within eight to twelve hours. Some patients may die within as little as 12 to 24 hours after onset of symptoms, which can include a sudden high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and mental confusion. About half of patients with the infection have a rash.

"When we talk about early diagnosis, we're not talking about days, but rather hours and even minutes," said Michael Cooperstock, M.D., professor of child health in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the MU School of Medicine, medical director of infection control at University of Missouri Health Care and senior author of the study.

"Diagnosis of most bacterial infections traditionally has relied upon the detection of an increase in the total number of white blood cells," Cooperstock said. "That's because an increase in a patient's white blood cell count is an indication of acute inflammation associated with infection."

However, in their study of 216 cases from the U.S. Multicenter Meningococcal Surveillance Study, MU researchers found that 33 percent of the patients with a
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Contact: Jeff Hoelscher
hoelscherj@missouri.edu
573-884-1608
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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New look at old test may provide earlier detection of meningitis, MU researchers find
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