07:23pm Sunday 20 October 2019

Study reveals meningitis and septicaemia affect learning in schoolchildren

A study at Imperial College London has shown that meningitis and septicaemia have a significant impact on children’s school performance. Their ability to learn and their behaviour are especially affected and are worse than for children treated in intensive care with other critical illnesses.

The new research, funded by the Meningitis Research Foundation, conducted at St Mary’s and Great Ormond Street hospitals and just published in the journal Critical Care Medicine, looked at children  aged 5 to 16 years old who had been in paediatric intensive care. Children had a series of tests five months after leaving hospital, measuring intellectual function, memory, and attention. The children’s teachers also reported on their performance at school. Children who hadn’t been in intensive care were tested as a comparison.

Dr Lorraine Als of Imperial College London said: “Overall, the children who had been in intensive care scored significantly lower on most tests than those who hadn’t, but those with meningitis, encephalitis and/or septicaemia had the worst scores. The difference was particularly noticeable for  IQ and memory. Teachers’ questionnaires also reported that children who had had meningitis, encephalitis and/or septicaemia were affected at school, having problems with academic performance, completing school work and attention span. This was particularly noticeable in children who had had septicaemia.”

Chris Head, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said: “This research perfectly highlights how meningitis and septicaemia damage children’s learning and academic performance during their crucial school years. This illustrates the importance of educational support for children affected. It also provides further evidence for prevention of these diseases, especially in the light of the recent licensure of a MenB vaccine as Men B is the leading cause of meningitis and septicaemia in children in the UK.”

Based on a press release by the Meningitis Research Foundation


L Als et al. ‘Neuropsychological Function Three to Six Months Following Admission to PICU With Meningo-Encephalitis, Sepsis, and Other Disorders: A Prospective Study of School-Aged Children’ Critical Care Medicine, published online 4 February 2013. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e318275d032

Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus, London SW7 2AZ, tel: +44 (0)20 7589 5111

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