A fast diagnosis for bacterial meningitis

November 16, 2005

University of Sydney researchers at Westmead Millennium Institute develop an accurate and rapid method of diagnosing bacterial meningitis.

Several hundred serious cases of bacterial meningitis are diagnosed in Australians every year. Bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment, however doctors have always faced difficulty in diagnosis, both in children and adults.

Professor Tania Sorrell and her team at Westmead Millennium Institute have discovered a quick and effective diagnostic for identifying bacterial meningitis using metabonomics.

Metabonomics is the study of the chemical composition of body fluids and tissues. All living organisms carry a unique metabolic fingerprint, and this can be identified using sophisticated techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectrometry.

Researchers in this study compared the metabolic fingerprints of spinal fluid from patients who presented with meningitis-like symptoms at Westmead Hospital. They found that those with bacterial meningitis could be easily and accurately differentiated from those with non-infected fluid, and even from viral meningitis.

"When diagnosing bacterial brain infections, accuracy and speed are vitally important" says chief investigator Professor Tania Sorrell.

"Bacterial meningitis can be difficult to diagnose, particularly in young children, and this method will lead to faster and more targeted treatment meaning better outcomes."

Whilst this diagnostic is ready for the pathology lab, most hospitals do not yet possess the technology required. As technology advances however, and hospitals obtain more powerful equipment, the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial meningitis will become faster and more effective.
-end-
This research will be published this month in the prestigious international journal Clinical Infection and Disease.

For more information or interviews, please contact Gayle McNaught on +61 423 797 388.

Research Australia

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