Aseptic meningitis (also known as viral meningitis) is an illness similar to bacterial meningitis. It is an inflammation of the spinal cord, more specifically, the sub-arachnoid space, which covers the brain and spinal cord. It is usually caused by a virus; viruses associated with the illness are mosquito-born viruses and enteroviruses, which are associated with the digestive tract. It is the most common type of meningitis. The symptoms are flu-like in nature, and include abdominal pain, drowsiness, fever and nausea. Unlike bacterial meningitis, symptoms are not as severe. Around 26,000 to 42,000 cases of the illness are reported every year. Recovery usually occurs within one week; fatal cases of the illness are extremely rare.
Aseptic meningitis can be transferred between people via nose and throat secretions. When a doctor suspects aseptic meningitis, a spinal tap is done to obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. Tests are done on that sample; when the sample contains more excess white blood cells- indicating inflammation- aseptic meningitis is diagnosed. The tests done do not usually detect any bacteria. Attempting to produce a culture of the virus is difficult and can take several days.
To treat aseptic meningitis, doctors treat the virus with antibiotics; whatever caused the illness is what doctors treat. Because the illness is usually derived from a virus, antibiotics are usually administered by a doctor. When a doctor suspects meningitis, they recommend the patient stay in the hospital until it is known whether the illness is bacterial or viral. A recent FDA announcement found that aseptic meningitis was a rare side effect of the medication lamotrigne, which is distributed by GlaxoSmithKline under the name Lamictal. It is meant to treat children of at least two years of age with seizures. The FDA now argues that those diagnosed with the illness should stop taking the medication if it is deemed that there is no other cause for the illness. So far, only forty cases of Lamictal patients being diagnosed with aseptic meningitis have been reported.
A study done in 1994 showed the illness in patients being treated with High-Dose Intravenous Immunoglobulin Therapy, with is used to treat autoimmune disorders. Fifty four patients were studied and six showed signs of the illness within the first twenty-four hours of the study. When the study was finished, it found that patients receiving high-dose intravenous immunoglobulin therapy that have a history of migraines are susceptible to the illness, regardless of how much dosage they receive.
Michael Janewicz, MD. “Aseptic Meningitis: Infections of the Brain and Spinal Cord: Merck Manual Home Edition”, Merck.com
News Staff, “Lamotrigne Linked to Cases of Aseptic Meningitis”, AAFP News Now
Elizabeth A. Sekul, MD, Edward J. Cupler, MD, Marinos C. Malakas, MD, “Aseptic Meningitis Associated With High-Dose Intravenous Immunoglobulin Therapy: Frequency and Risk Factors”, Annals of Internal Medicine
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Outbreaks of Aseptic Meningitis Associated With Echoviruses 9 and 30 and Preliminary Surveillance Reports on Enterovirus Activity – United States, 2003”, Medscape.com