Staphylococcal meningitis

Alternative names
Meningitis - staphylococcal

Staphylococcal meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord caused by staphylococcus bacteria.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Meningitis caused by Staphylococcus aureus or S. epidermidis usually develops as a complication of a surgical procedure, or as an infection spread by the blood from another site.

Risk factors include recent brain surgery, previous meningitis associated with spinal fluid shunts, infections of heart valves, or previous infection of the brain itself.


  • Fever  
  • Severe headache  
  • nausea and Vomiting  
  • Stiff neck  
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)  
  • Rash

Signs and tests

  • Elevated white blood cell count in blood and spinal fluid  
  • Spinal fluid stains and culture showing bacteria  
  • Blood culture growing staphylococcus

Antibiotic therapy should be started as soon as possible to decrease the chances of serious illness or death. Often, treatment of the infection will include a search for a removal of possible sources of the bacteria in the body such as shunts or artificial heart valves.

Expectations (prognosis)

This form of infection in people with depressed immune systems can be very serious and often leads to death. Recognition of symptoms of meningitis is very important to prevent serious illness.

Staphyloccocal meningitis often improves more rapidly with better outcomes if the source of the infection (shunts, hardware in joints, or artificial heart valves) is removed.

These patients may develop a brain infection or staph infections at other body sites. Excessive bleeding and shock may develop.

Calling your health care provider
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if symptoms of meningitis occur. This disorder can be life-threatening.

Prophylactic (preventive) use of antibiotics in high-risk people before diagnostic or surgical procedures may help to reduce risk in certain situations. Discuss this with your doctor.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.