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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 61  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 17--20

Differential diagnosis of scrub typhus meningitis from bacterial meningitis using clinical and laboratory features

1 Department of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India
2 Department of Infectious Diseases, Tufts University, Boston, USA
3 World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland

Correspondence Address:
George M Varghese
Department of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu 632 004
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.107919

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Background: Central nervous system (CNS) involvement in the form of meningitis or meningoencephalitis is common in scrub typhus. As specific laboratory methods remain inadequate or inaccessible in developing countries, prompt diagnosis is often difficult. Aim: To identify the clinical and laboratory parameters that may help in differentiating scrub typhus meningitis from bacterial meningitis. Setting and Design: This is a cross-sectional analysis of adult patients admitted with scrub typhus and bacterial meningitis to a tertiary care teaching institute in South India. Materials and Methods: A comparison of clinical and laboratory features of 25 patients admitted with meningitis to a university teaching hospital during a 15-month period was made. These patients had meningitis diagnosed based on abnormal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis with either positive IgM scrub typhus ELISA serology (n =16) or with CSF culture isolating bacteria known to cause bacterial meningitis (n =9). The clinical and laboratory features of the patients with scrub typhus meningitis and bacterial meningitis were compared. Results: The mean age was similar in the scrub typhus and bacterial meningitis groups (44.0 ± 18.5 years vs. 46.3 ± 23.0 years). Features at admission predictive of a diagnosis of scrub typhus meningitis were duration of fever at presentation >5 days (8.4 ± 3.5 days vs. 3.3 ± 4.2 days, P < 0.001), CSF white cell count of a lesser magnitude (83.2 ± 83.0 cells/cumm vs. 690.2 + 753.8 cells/cumm, P < 0.001), CSF lymphocyte proportion >50% (83.9 ± 12.5% vs. 24.8 ± 17.5% P < 0.001), and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) elevation more than 60 IU (112.5 ± 80.6 IU vs. 35 ± 21.4 IU, P =0.02). Conclusion: This study suggests that clinical features, including the duration of fever and laboratory parameters such as CSF pleocytosis, CSF lymphocyte proportion >50%, and ALT values are helpful in differentiating scrub typhus from bacterial meningitis.


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