Meningococcal disease causes lasting deficits

August 30, 2012

Most children survive serogroup B meningococcal disease without major sequelae. British researchers report, however, that about 10% of children who have had meningococcal infection experience major disabling deficits. What screening is needed for survivors of meningococcal disease? More >>

Most children survive serogroup B meningococcal disease without major sequelae. British researchers report, however, that about 10% of children who have had meningococcal infection experience major disabling deficits, and more than a third have deficits in physical, cognitive, and psychological functioning, with the additional burden of memory and executive function problems.

In a case-control study, researchers recruited children who had had serogroup B meningococcal disease confirmed by culture or polymerase chain reaction when they were aged 1 month to 13 years. A total of 245 survivors and 328 controls were included in the study. Physical, psychological, neurocognitive, and educational outcomes 3 years after the disease were measured using a standardized interview with validated instruments.

Compared with controls, children who had serogroup B meningococcal disease were more likely to have bilateral sensorineural hearing loss of 40 dB or more, lower full-scale IQ, and psychological disorders, including separation anxiety, conduct disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In addition, survivors were more likely to have deficits in executive function and multiple aspects of memory. Total physical disability scores were higher in survivors, and 3 had disabling amputations compared with none of the controls.

Nearly 10% of children with meningococcal disease had major sequelae, including major amputations, very low IQ, seizures, moderately severe bilateral hearing loss, and major hearing loss. More than a third had minor deficits, such as psychological disorders, borderline IQ, digit amputations, minor or unilateral hearing loss, and minor communication deficits.

The researchers suggest that all survivors of meningococcal disease should be screened for psychological disorders and cognitive deficits in addition to hearing loss.

Go back to the current issue of the eConsult.