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ObjectivesThe aims of this study were to assess aetiology and clinical characteristics in childhood meningitis, and develop clinical decision rules to distinguish bacterial meningitis from other similar clinical syndromes.MethodsChildren aged <16 years hospitalised with suspected meningitis/encephalitis were included, and prospectively recruited at 31 UK hospitals. Meningitis was defined as identification of bacteria/viruses from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and/or a raised CSF white blood cell count. New clinical decision rules were developed to distinguish bacterial from viral meningitis and those of alternative aetiology.ResultsThe cohort included 3,002 children (median age 2·4 months); 1,101/3,002 (36·7%) had meningitis, including 180 bacterial, 423 viral and 280 with no pathogen identified. Enterovirus was the most common pathogen in those aged ConclusionsBacterial meningitis comprised 6% of children with suspected meningitis/encephalitis. Our clinical decision rules provide potential novel approaches to assist with identifying children with bacterial meningitis.FundingThis study was funded by the Meningitis Research Foundation, Pfizer and the NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research.

Original publication




Journal article


The Journal of infection

Publication Date



Department of Paediatrics, University of Oxford and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Level 2, Children's Hospital, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK; Department of Paediatrics, University of Otago Christchurch, 2 Riccarton Avenue, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand.


UK-ChiMES and ENCEPH-UK study groups