There are actually many known agents (such as viruses, bacteria and parasites) that are said to be responsible for meningitis. While these agents are often quite different from one another, the pain that they could inflict is equally devastating. Here are five of the most common causes of meningitis.
You can get bacterial meningitis if bacteria strains enter your bloodstream and travel to both your brain and spinal cord. Some of the known bacteria strains that could trigger this type of meningitis are:1
• Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus): This is said to be the usual culprit of bacterial meningitis among infants, young children and adults here in the U.S. It could also cause pneumonia or ear or sinus infections.
• Neisseria meningitides (meningococcus): Another common cause of bacterial meningitis, this bacteria strain could lead to an upper respiratory infection that could then cause meningococcal meningitis, especially when the bacteria enter your bloodstream.
This strain of bacterial meningitis is contagious, and transmission is common among teenagers and young adults. A crowded community like college dormitories, boarding schools and military bases could be the potential center of a bacterial meningitis epidemic.
• Haemophilus influenza (haemophilus): Also known as Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), this bacteria strain is said to be the No. 1 cause of bacterial meningitis in children.
• Listeria monocytogenes (listeria): Typically found in unpasteurized cheeses, hot dogs and luncheon meats, as well as in cooked or processed foods including certain soft cheeses, processed ready-to-eat meats and smoked seafood,2 listeria can cause devastating bacterial meningitis. Listeria has the ability to cross the placental barrier and infect a baby.
Should the infection occur during the late stages of a pregnancy, this could potentially prove to be fatal.
People who have a high risk of being infected with listeria bacteria include women, newborns, older adults and people with weakened immune systems.
Viral meningitis, as the name implies, is caused by viruses that lurk in your environment.
In the U.S., a group of viruses known as Enteroviruses play a role in 85 percent of meningitis cases (10 to 15 million infections annually), usually during the late summer and early fall. These can be caused in particular by either the Coxsackie viruses A or B, or echoviruses.3,4 Aside from these Enteroviruses, these other types of viruses could cause meningitis:5
✓ West Nile virus
✓ Herpes viruses
✓ Coltivirus that could also lead to Colorado tick fever
Fungal meningitis could occur if a patient inhales fungal spores from contaminated soil or have contact with bird or bat droppings.6 The fungus could then spread through your blood and into your spinal cord, ultimately causing the disease.7 Here are four types of fungi that could trigger meningitis, as well as where they are typically found:8
• Cryptococcus: You can be infected with this type of fungi when you inhale soil with traces of bird droppings.
• Histoplasma: High amounts of this fungi have been detected in the Midwest, near the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, because these environments are heavily contaminated with bird or bat droppings.
• Blastomyces: This type of fungi exists in soil that is rich with decaying organic matter, usually in the Midwest portions of the U.S.
• Coccidiodies: Soil in endemic areas such as the southwestern U.S. and parts of Central and South America are home to this type of fungi.
Different parasites found in contaminated lakes and rivers that can enter your nose could also cause meningitis.9 In fact, there are two types of parasites that can lead to two different types of parasitic meningitis.
A microscopic amoeba called Naegleria fowleri could result in the onset of primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).10,11 Meanwhile, another type of parasitic meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis or eosinophilic meningoencephalitis (EM) could occur among infected patients because of these parasites:12
- Angiostrongylus cantonensis
- Baylisascaris procyonis
- Gnathostoma spinigerum
These Factors Could Also Trigger Meningitis
Meningitis can also be caused by different sicknesses, such as ear or sinus infections, cancers or systemic lupus erythematosus. Although rare, If you undergo a surgery, meningitis could occur afterward. Brain or head injuries, as well as taking certain medications, could also result in meningitis.13,14,15