Spinal meningitis occurs when the brain and spinal cord’s covering membranes, the meninges, become inflamed. This can happen either after the surrounding fluid’s invasion, the CSF, by infectious agents, known as infectious meningitis, or due to other causes, known as non-infectious meningitis.
The common infectious causes
1. Bacterial meningitis:
The common bacteria causing this condition are:
Group B Streptococcus, S. pneumoniae, L. monocytogenes, E. coli, N. meningitidis, and H. influenzae type b (Hib).
How do you catch these infections?
During birth: Some of these agents can pass from a mother to her baby during natural delivery. Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is the leading cause since 25% of adult women carry these bacteria in the vagina or rectum; hence, they can pass the organisms during delivery. That’s why physicians usually test pregnant women for GBS during routine prenatal care.
Close contact with patients: Patients transmit the disease in their secretions (saliva) while coughing, sneezing, or kissing. This is typical with (Hib) and N. meningitidis infections. This mode of transmission is pervasive in meningitis outbreaks.
Eating contaminated food: Food might be contaminated with bacteria either from the food handlers, especially E. coli, or from the food itself. Unwashed fruits and vegetables might harbor E. coli, while L. monocytogenes are usually found in unpasteurized milk, smoked salmon, processed meat, including ham, cold cuts, hot dogs, sprouts, and soft cheeses made with raw milk.
After entering the body, these bacteria migrate to the fluid around the brain and spinal cord, the CSF, to reach the meninges.