New evidence from the Czech Republic confirms what older British and the US studies have suggested: that meningococcal meningitis in children is likely to be linked to parents' smoking habits.
The Czech study examined all the cases of invasive meningococcal disease diagnosed in Czech schoolchildren over an 18 month period. A total of 71 cases were identified and each was matched with two healthy control children.
The researchers found that children who lived in households where at least 20 cigarettes a day were smoked were 2.6 times more likely to develop meningococcal disease than children in the control groups.
According to the authors, exposure to smoke causes direct damage to the protective mucous lining of the nose and throat. Such damage may allow the disease to enter the child's system more easily (Arch Dis Child, 2000; 83: 117-21).