Bacterial meningitis a condition that causes membranes in the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed may result in death, hearing loss, brain damage and learning disabilities. A latest research suggests that an intravenous (IV) treatment known as dexamethasone can lower a person’s risk of dying from bacterial meningitis. Dexamethasone apparently is a medication belonging to the glucocorticosteroid class of drugs that can be provided along with antibiotics for treating bacterial meningitis.

Throughout the study investigators examined 357 Dutch people aged 16 or above with pneumococcal meningitis between 2006 and 2009. 84 percent were given dexamethasone through an IV with or before the first dose of antibiotics. The results of these study subjects were then compared to a previous study which treated 352 bacterial meningitis patients in1998-2002. It was after this time period that Netherlands guidelines recommended using dexamethasone for treating the ailment. During that analysis only three percent were given dexamethasone.

Diederik van de Beek, MD, PhD, with the Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the lead investigator, remarked, “Using this treatment in people infected with meningitis has been under debate because in a few large studies it was shown to be ineffective. Our results provide valuable evidence suggesting that dexamethasone is effective in adult cases of bacterial meningitis and should continue to be used.”

Experts analyzed the participants on basis of a rating scale from one to five. While score of one was given for death, two for coma and three for severe disability, four was assigned for moderate disability and five for mild or no disability. In a later study, 39 percent revealed a score of four or lower on the scale, as compared to 50 percent in the earlier study group. It was noted that the rate of death for those who were given dexamethasone was 10 percent lower than in those in early study group. Having observed the rate of hearing loss, scientists concluded it to be almost 10 percent lower for those in the later study group.

The research was published in the September 29, 2010, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.