Nervous System Home > Causes of Spinal Meningitis

The cause of spinal meningitis is most often a bacterial or viral infection. For example, bacterial causes include pneumococcal meningitis, meningococcal meningitis, and haemophilus meningitis. Viral causes can include enteroviruses and other viruses (such as mumps, HIV, and influenza). Less common causes of spinal meningitis include fungal infections, some types of cancer, and traumatic injury to the head or spine.

An Overview of the Causes of Spinal Meningitis

The most common causes of spinal meningitis are bacterial or viral infections. The causes of spinal meningitis may also include:
  • Fungal infection
  • An inflammatory disease such as lupus
  • Some types of cancer
  • A traumatic injury to the head or spine
  • A reaction to certain medications or medical treatments.

Causes of Spinal Meningitis: Bacterial Meningitis

Bacterial meningitis is a rare but potentially fatal disease. It can be caused by several types of bacteria that first cause an upper respiratory tract infection and then travel through the bloodstream to the brain. The disease can also occur when certain bacteria invade the meninges directly. The disease can block blood vessels in the brain, causing stroke and permanent brain damage.
Pneumococcal Meningitis
Pneumococcal meningitis is the most common form of meningitis and is the most serious form of bacterial meningitis. Some 6,000 cases of pneumococcal meningitis are reported in the United States each year. The disease is caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, which also causes pneumonia, blood poisoning (septicemia), and ear and sinus infections. At particular risk are children under age two and adults with a weakened or depressed immune system. People who have had pneumococcal meningitis often suffer neurological damage ranging from deafness to severe brain damage.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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