APR 27, 2018 7:16 AM PDT

Stomach Pain Is A Warning Sign for Meningitis

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Simply looking out for the classic warning signs of a meningococcal infection may cause some cases to go unnoticed - at first. A new study from the Institut Pasteur shows that abdominal pain should be considered an important symptom that occurs as a result of meningococcal infection.

A micrograph of the aerobic Gram-negative Neisseria meningitidis diplococcal bacteria. Credit: שועל

Meningococcal disease is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as any illness caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis. Infections from this pathogen spread through respiratory and throat secretions and can affect the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and the bloodstream (bacteremia, septicemia).

Vaccines are the best way to prevent meningococcal infections. They can also be treated with antibiotics, administered as soon as possible for the best results. The classic symptoms of a meningococcal infection include fever, headache, vomiting, and stiff neck, which occur within 24 hours of infection with the bacteria. Now, severe stomach pain is becoming more common. Often this pain is so intense that it is misdiagnosed as appendicitis.

"When doctors see patients suffering from stomach pain, invasive meningococcal disease doesn't immediately spring to mind,” explained lead author Muhamed-Kheir Taha. “They tend to think of gastroenteritis or possibly appendicitis.”

But now, nearly ten percent of patients infected by a particular meningococcal strain becoming more common in Europe suffer from stomach pain.

“Delays in diagnosis and appropriate treatment for those affected can be deadly,” Taha said. “Invasive meningococcal disease is fatal in virtually all cases if antibiotics are not administered rapidly."

The new study analyzed nearly 12,000 meningococcal strains and the “clinical presentations” of the patients infected with them. Researchers saw 105 cases of abdominal pain, gastroenteritis, or diarrhea - about one percent of patients between 1991 and 2016.

"But if we focus on the past two or three years and the group W bacterial strain, which arrived in Europe in 2013-2014 and has grown rapidly ever since, the figure rises to 10% of cases,” Teha explained.

The study results show that stomach pain, along with other potential warning signs that might become increasingly common (leg pain, headaches, poor blood supply to the nails), should be considered along with the classic signs for meningococcal infection for doctors making diagnoses. In the meantime, researchers will continue investigating the relationship between stomach pain and meningococcal infection.

"We should remember that the bacteria infect the vessels which supply blood to the abdomen and the digestive system," Taha concluded. "If these bacteria are likely to induce a stronger inflammatory response in tissues, that could explain the abdominal pains."

The present study was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Sources: CDC, Institut Pasteur

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 13, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
SEP 13, 2019
Apple Watch New Research App: A Boon to Women's Health
The Apple company, in 2018, enrolled more than 400,000 people in its Apple Heart Study conducted in partnership with Stanford University researchers....
SEP 22, 2019
Technology
SEP 22, 2019
Blood Incubation Using Laser Technology
The world’s first ever blood incubator was developed using laser technology and could someday prevent fatal blood transfusions in critically ill pati...
SEP 27, 2019
Immunology
SEP 27, 2019
Diseases We Share with Our Canine Companions: Autoimmune Encephalitis in Dogs
Like humans, dogs can develop autoimmune encephalitis, and it’s common - mostly affecting smaller breeds and young adult dogs. Now scientists underst...
NOV 26, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
NOV 26, 2019
Looking into the eyes of MS patients for personalized therapies
Blurred or double vision, and in extreme cases, complete vision loss are amongst the earliest symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS). In this devastating dise...
DEC 18, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 18, 2019
Germs don't stand a chance with new AI-powered diagnostic platform
We are steadily losing our edge in the war against infectious bacteria. A huge surge in antibiotic resistance is threatening healthcare and agricultural in...
FEB 21, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
FEB 21, 2020
Diagnosing COVID-19
Diagnosing coronavirus is done through next-generation sequencing, real-time RT-PCR tests, cell culture, and electron miscopy. For patients, that translate...
Loading Comments...