Question 3.3

Created on Tue, 05/12/2015 - 23:32
Last updated on Fri, 04/21/2017 - 01:30
Pass rate: 60%
Highest mark: 9.3

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The following is a CSF sample from a 56-year-old woman with severe rheumatoid arthritis who has presented with fever, malaise and altered mental state

Parameter

Value

Normal Range

Cell count

75 cells / mm3*

0 – 5

(90% lymphocytes)

Protein

890 mg/L*

170 – 550

Glucose

2.0 mmol/L*

2.8 – 4.5

Gram stain

Negative

Describe 4 further tests you would perform upon the CSF to establish an infective cause.

 

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College Answer

  • Herpes Simplex PCR
  • Mycobacterium Tuberculosis PCR 
  • Mycobacterial Stain and Cultures
  • India Ink Stain, Cryptococcal Ag 
  • Fungal cultures
  • Bacterial PCR

Discussion

The question is really asking, "what pathogens can cause a meningitis, but wont be picked up on a routine gram stain?" The answer is "anything that is not a classical bacterium". This is what one might call "aseptic meningitis". LITFL has an excellent summary of this topic.

The list contains the following bugs:

  • Mycobacteria:
    • M.tuberculosis
  • Fungi:
    • Cryptococcus neoformans
  • Viruses:
    • HSV
    • VZV
    • CMV
    • HIV
    • Enterovirus
  • Random:
    • Treponema pallidum
    • Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease)

Additionally, one might wish to consider non-infectious causes, such as lymphoma, vasculitis, or drug-induced meningitis (eg. due to cotrimoxazole or azathiaprine)

Interestingly, the most likely causes of CSF lymphocytosis are the common meningitis pathogens -S.pneumoniaeH.influenzae and N.meningitides.

The richness of this pathology is serenaded in a dedicated chapter on meningitis.

References

Powers, William J. "Cerebrospinal fluid lymphocytosis in acute bacterial meningitis." The American journal of medicine 79.2 (1985): 216-220.