Had another fatal Meningococcal B case a few weeks ago. Always upsetting. Text book management by the night team, excellent support and fast action by CATS retrieval team, the full services of one of the top PICUs in the country – but that horrible little diplococcus won the battle. Of course it didn’t really, our antibiotics would have killed it off pretty quickly, but the cascade it had set in motion was irreversible. 2 of the juniors involved with the case have separately presented it and looked into aspects of it further – a mark of how deaths like this have an effect on every member of the team. Dr Keir Shiels looked at prophylaxis and secondary prevention:
Neisseria meningitidis is found in the throats of around 15% of the population and is the cause of the much-feared meningococcal septicaemia. The incidence of meningococcaemia has fallen significantly since the advent of vaccines against some strains; and public awareness of the danger of non-blanching rashes is high.
Despite the relatively high prevalence of N. meningitidis as a commensal organism in the population and the relatively low incidence of meningococcaemia, meningococcal sepsis is still a notifiable disease. This stems from the pre-vaccine days when Men A was able to spread epidemically. The HPA still recommends prophylactic antibiotics for contacts of a patient with meningococcaemia.
A recent Cochrane review has been published regarding the effectiveness of different antibiotic regimens in obliterating N. meningitidis from the throats of inoculated hosts. The study has compared the effectiveness of Rifampicin, cefalosporin and Ciproflaxacin and comes to several conclusions which have altered UK HPA Guidelines.
The increasing risk of rifampicin-resistant N. meningitidis, plus the reduced likelihood of compliance with a twice daily prophylaxis for two days, means that for adults and older children, rifampicin is no longer the antibiotic of choice. The HPA now recommend ciproflaxacin to be given as a single one-off dose instead. It is believed that this is at least equally effective, but with far better compliance.
People who require prophylaxis remain as: first degree relatives, people sleeping in the same house, classmates and teacher at school.
Given the risks of using fluoroquinolones in children, the Cochrane review is circumspect in advising the administration of ciprofloxacin to children. However, the HPA leave it to a paediatrician’s discretion to consider the risks of a single one-off dose and still suggest ciprofloxacin as first line consideration. Rifampicin (2 doses daily for 2 days) is now considered second line.