We prospectively collected laboratory details and outcome data on all patients with laboratory-confirmed cases of meningitis that presented to our unit in Blantyre, Malawi, from 1 April 1998 through 31 March 1999. There were 502 patients with cases of meningitis; the most common causative organisms were Cryptococcus neoformans and Streptococcus pneumoniae. This pattern probably reflects the local human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) seroprevalence (31%) and is different from the pattern in 1974, when Neisseria meningitidis was the most common isolate. There has been an 8-fold increase in the number of meningitis cases per year since 1974, and a doubling of the percentage of medical admissions due to meningitis. The inpatient mortality rate among patients with cases of pneumococcal meningitis was 61%, and in the group as a whole was 41%. Despite the HIV-related pattern of infecting pathogens among these cases of meningitis and the increased incidence of the condition, there was evidence that the typical seasonal pattern of pneumococcal meningitis, which peaks in the cold, dry season, was preserved.
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