HealthDay News — Viruses are the most commonly identified cause of meningitis among UK adults, according to a study published online June 29 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Fiona McGill, PhD, from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a prospective observational cohort study involving 1126 patients with suspected meningitis at 42 hospitals. The incidence of viral meningitis was calculated.

The researchers found that 57% of the enrolled patients had meningitis: 36% viral, 16% bacterial, 42% of unknown cause, and 6% of other causes. The estimated annual incidence of viral and bacterial meningitis was 2.73 and 1.24 per 100,000, respectively. For patients with viral meningitis, the median length of hospital stay was four days, increasing to 9 days among those treated with antivirals. Compared to those with a delayed lumbar puncture, earlier lumbar puncture resulted in more patients having a specific cause identified. Patients with viral meningitis had a mean loss of 0.2 quality-adjusted life years in the first year compared with the age-matched UK population.

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Viruses are the most commonly identified cause of meningitis in UK adults, and lead to substantial long-term morbidity,” the authors write. “Delays in getting a lumbar puncture and unnecessary treatment with antivirals were associated with longer hospital stays.”

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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