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Causes of Meningitis

The article will delve into the causes and complications of Meningitis that you should be aware of.

  • 11 Oct 2023
  • 2 min read

Meningitis is an infection of the fluid and membrane area surrounding the brain and spinal cord. This membrane, called meninges, helps to protect the brain and spinal cord from injury and offers support and structure as it contains nerves, blood vessels, and a protective fluid called cerebrospinal fluid. The inflammation from meningitis can trigger symptoms like headache, fever and a stiff neck. Meningitis affects most commonly in babies, young children, teenagers and young adults and is known to be very serious if not treated quickly. So it is advisable to understand the causes of meningitis and seek immediate medical care through your health insurance if someone in our family has meningitis. Read on to know more.

How is Meningitis Caused?

Meningitis is caused by harmful organisms from outside of the body like bacteria, viruses and fungi and in some cases, it can occur because of non-infectious conditions like diseases and certain medications. Listed below are the main causes of meningitis:

Viral Meningitis

Viral meningitis is a more common infection than the bacterial form as most viruses can trigger the disease that can cause diarrhoea. Some of the viruses are

  • Coxsackievirus A
  • Coxsackievirus B
  • Echoviruses

Other viruses can cause meningitis. These include:

  • West Nile virus
  • Influenza virus
  • Mumps
  • HIV
  • Measles
  • Herpes viruses
  • Coltivirus, which causes Colorado tick fever

Viral meningitis can be cured without treatment. However, some cases need to be treated during serious health conditions occurring because of meningitis

Bacterial meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is caused when bacteria enter the blood and move towards the brain and spinal cord or directly invade the membrane causing an infection of the ear or sinus, a skull fracture, or some surgeries.
Bacterial meningitis causes include:

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae: This bacterium is the most common agent behind bacterial meningitis. Infection causes ear infections, sinus infections and meningitis and can be so severe a person may require a hospital stay.
  • Neisseria meningitidis: This bacteria causes meningococcal meningitis that affects the upper respiratory system.
  • Haemophilus influenzae: Haemophilus influenzae Type b (Hib) bacterium was known to be the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children but with the release of new Hib vaccines, the number of cases for this type of meningitis has reduced.
  • Listeria monocytogenes: These types of bacteria are generally found in unpasteurized dairy products, hot dogs and lunch meats. People with a weak immune system like in the case of pregnant women, newborns, and older adults, are most susceptible to it.

Also read:

Chronic meningitis

Chronic meningitis is caused by slow-growing organisms such as fungi and Mycobacterium tuberculosis, in which the microorganisms invade the membrane and fluid surrounding the brain and develop chronic meningitis over two weeks or more. 

Fungal meningitis

Fungal meningitis isn't common but it may mimic acute bacterial meningitis. Fungal meningitis occurs due to the breathing of fungal spores that may be present in soil, decaying wood and bird droppings. The fungal species causing meningitis include Cryptococcus, Blastomyces, Histoplasma and Coccidioides.

Parasitic meningitis

Parasitic meningitis can be caused either by a tapeworm infection in the brain, or cerebral malaria, which is a rare form of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis. Other parasitic meningitis is amoebic meningitis which may be contracted through contact with fresh water and can quickly become life-threatening. Parasitic meningitis does not spread from person to person.

Other risk factors for meningitis include:

  • Skipping vaccinations when a person hasn't completed the recommended childhood or adult vaccination schedule.
  • Age is also a factor, with viral meningitis mostly occuring in children younger than age 5 years and bacterial meningitis is common in those under age 20.
  • Living in large groups, especially during college days, students living indormitories or children staying in boarding schools and childcare facilities are at greater risk of meningococcal meningitis.
  • Pregnancy increases the risk of meningitis as pregnant women become more prone to an infection caused by listeria bacteria during premature delivery or miscarriage.


Meningitis can be a life-threatening infection, so always be watchful about its symptoms. Understanding the main causes of meningitis can help one prevent acquiring this disease. Early diagnosis can also prevent significant complications and other factors like diet play a major role in recovering from the infection. Proper rest can also help a person recover faster from meningitis. Now some vaccines are also available in the market in particular against pneumococcal diseases that may not always prevent meningitis but may prevent serious complications of meningitis related to this disease.

The above blog aims to provide general information about health and related topics. Any information provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials is not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is important that you contact your Doctor before starting a new medicine or health regime.

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