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Question 4#

A 35-year-old previously healthy man develops cough with purulent sputum over several days. On presentation to the emergency room, he is lethargic. Temperature is 39°C, pulse 110, and blood pressure 100/70. He has rales and dullness to percussion at the left base. There is no rash. Flexion of the patient’s neck when supine results in spontaneous flexion of hip and knee. Neurologic examination is otherwise normal. There is no papilledema. A lumbar puncture is performed in the emergency room. The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) shows 8000 leukocytes/µL, 90% of which are polys. Glucose is 30 mg/dL with a peripheral glucose of 80 mg/dL. CSF protein is elevated to 200 mg/dL. CSF Gram stain is pending. Which of the following is the correct treatment option?

A) Begin acyclovir for herpes simplex encephalitis
B) Obtain emergency MRI scan before beginning treatment
C) Begin ceftriaxone and vancomycin for pneumococcal meningitis
D) Begin ceftriaxone, vancomycin, and ampicillin to cover both pneumococci and Listeria
E) Begin high-dose penicillin for meningococcal meningitis

Correct Answer is C


This previously healthy male has developed acute bacterial meningitis as evident by meningeal irritation with a positive Brudzinski sign, and a CSF profile typical for bacterial meningitis (elevated white blood cell count, high percentage of polymorphonuclear leukocytes, elevated protein, and low glucose). The patient likely has concomitant pneumonia. This combination suggests pneumococcal infection. Because of the potential for beta-lactam resistance, the recommendation for therapy prior to availability of susceptibility data is ceftriaxone and vancomycin. Though herpes simplex can be seen in young healthy patients, the clinical picture and CSF profile are not consistent with this infection. The CSF in herpes simplex encephalitis shows a lymphocytic predominance and normal glucose. Listeria monocyto-genes meningitis is a concern in immunocompromised and elderly patients. Gram stain would show gram-positive rods. Neisseria meningitidis is the second commonest cause of bacterial meningitis but rarely causes pneumonia (the portal of entry is the nasopharynx). Although penicillin G still kills the meningococcus, empiric therapy should cover all likely pathogens until Gram stain and culture results are available. Because the patient has no papilledema and no focal neurologic findings, treatment should not be delayed to obtain an MRI scan.