Non-corticosteroid adjuvant therapies for acute bacterial meningitis

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Abstract

Background: Acute bacterial meningitis is a bacterial infection of the membranes that surround and protect the brain, known as the meninges. The primary therapy for bacterial meningitis is antibiotics and corticosteroids. Although these therapies significantly improve outcomes, bacterial meningitis still has a high risk of death and a high risk of neurological sequelae in survivors. New adjuvant therapies are needed to further reduce the risk of death and neurological sequelae in bacterial meningitis. Objectives: To assess the effects of non-corticosteroid adjuvant pharmacological therapies for mortality, hearing loss, and other neurological sequelae in people with acute bacterial meningitis. Search methods: We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and LILACS databases and ClinicalTrials.gov and WHO ICTRP trials registers up to 30 September 2021, together with reference checking, citation searching, and contact with study authors to identify additional studies. Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of any pharmacological adjuvant therapy for acute bacterial meningitis. Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed and extracted data on methods, participants, interventions, and outcomes. We assessed risk of bias of studies with the Cochrane risk of bias tool and the certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach. We presented results using risk ratios (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) when meta-analysis was possible. All other results are presented in a narrative synthesis. Main results: We found that five different adjuvant therapies have been tested in RCTs for bacterial meningitis. These include paracetamol (3 studies, 1274 participants who were children); immunoglobulins (2 studies, 49 participants; one study included children, and the other adults); heparin (1 study, 15 participants who were adults); pentoxifylline (1 study, 57 participants who were children); and a mixture of succinic acid, inosine, nicotinamide, and riboflavin mononucleotide (1 study, 30 participants who were children). Paracetamol may make little or no difference to mortality (paracetamol 35.2% versus placebo 37.4%, 95% CI 30.3% to 40.8%; RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.09; 3 studies, 1274 participants; I² = 0%; low certainty evidence); hearing loss (RR 1.04, 95% CI 0.80 to 1.34; 2 studies, 901 participants; I² = 0%; low certainty evidence); neurological sequelae other than hearing loss (RR 1.56, 95% CI 0.98 to 2.50; 3 studies, 1274 participants; I² = 60%; low certainty evidence); and severe hearing loss (RR 0.96, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.36; 2 studies, 901 participants; I² = 0%; low certainty evidence). Paracetamol may lead to slightly more short-term neurological sequelae other than hearing loss (RR 1.99, 95% CI 1.40 to 2.81; 2 studies, 1096 participants; I² = 0%; low certainty evidence) and slightly more long-term neurological sequelae other than hearing loss (RR 2.32, 95% CI 1.34 to 4.04; 2 studies, 901 participants; I² = 0%; low certainty evidence). No adverse events were reported in either group in any of the paracetamol studies (very low certainty evidence). Two paracetamol studies had a low risk of bias in most domains, and one had low or unclear risk of bias in all domains. We judged the certainty of evidence to be low for mortality due to limitations in study design (unclear risk of bias in at least one domain and imprecision (high level of uncertainty in absolute effects), and low for all other outcomes due to limitations in study design (unclear risk of bias in at least one domain), and imprecision (low sample size and few events) or inconsistency in effect estimates (heterogeneity). We were not able to perform meta-analysis for any of the other adjuvant therapies due to the limited number of included studies. It is uncertain whether immunoglobulins, heparin, or pentoxifylline improves mortality outcomes due to the very low certainty of the evidence. Zero adverse events were reported for immunoglobulins (very low certainty evidence), and allergic reactions occurred at a rate of 3.3% in participants receiving a mixture of succinic acid, inosine, nicotinamide, and riboflavin mononucleotide (intervention group) (very low certainty evidence). None of our other outcomes (hearing loss, neurological sequelae other than hearing loss, severe hearing loss, and short-term or long-term neurological sequelae other than hearing loss) were reported in these studies, and all of these studies were judged to have a high risk of bias. All reported outcomes for all included adjuvant therapies, other than paracetamol, were graded as very low certainty of evidence due to limitations in study design (unclear or high risk of bias in at least four domains) and imprecision (extremely low sample size and few events). Authors' conclusions: Few adjuvant therapies for bacterial meningitis have been tested in RCTs. Paracetamol may make little or no difference to mortality, with a high level of uncertainty in the absolute effects (low certainty evidence). Paracetamol may make little or no difference to hearing loss, neurological sequelae other than hearing loss, and severe hearing loss (all low certainty evidence). Paracetamol may lead to slightly more short-term and long-term neurological sequelae other than hearing loss (both outcomes low certainty evidence). There is insufficient evidence to determine whether any of the adjuvant therapies included in this review (paracetamol, immunoglobulins, heparin, pentoxifylline, or a mixture of succinic acid, inosine, nicotinamide, and riboflavin mononucleotide) are beneficial or detrimental in acute bacterial meningitis.

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Fisher, J., Linder, A., Calevo, M. G., & Bentzer, P. (2021, November 23). Non-corticosteroid adjuvant therapies for acute bacterial meningitis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley and Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD013437.pub2

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