Bacterial meningitis is a terrible disease that usually ends in death, especially among children in developing countries. Up to half of all patients in developing countries will die compared with just 5 per cent in the West.
Doctors tend to prescribe steroids as a standard treatment, but new research shows that they need to think again.
Scientists studied 598 children with pyogenic (pus-producing) meningitis admitted to a hospital in Malawi; half were given the steroid dexamethasone and the rest a placebo. The overall number of deaths was the same in each group whether the children stayed in hospital or not (Lancet, 2002; 360: 211-8).