Meningitis…and Lasers?

Bacterial meningitis can be a life-threatening infection especially in children where it is most common. While not as prevalent as its viral counterpart, it is still a significant source of morbidity and mortality worldwide. There are a number of organisms that can cause meningitis, and they vary depending on age . While the most common cause of bacterial meningitis overall is Streptococcus pneumoniae, in children, meningitis can be caused by Neisseria meningitidis and Haemophilus influenzae or a combination of organisms as well.

Another concern which rises with bacterial meningitis is the rise of treatment resistant organisms. Though this is an issue with any human infection, it is especially troublesome in meningitis due to the rapid sequelae of symptoms and residual effects on the brain after recovery.

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde and the University of Manchester have developed a rapid test to determine the specific bacterial etiology of bacterial etiology. The hope is to provide clinicians an alternate diagnostic tool for faster organism identification and treatment.

The test is called Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) and works by digesting DNA taken from the organism, adding a dye which emits  a wavelength of light that is subsequently detected. The light emitted has a unique “fingerprint” which is  quantified and can be used to identify the causative organism.


Though this mechanism seems revolutionary in speed and accuracy as compared to conventional culture, it doesn’t add any information regarding antibiotic resistance. However, as this is a DNA test, there is potential that the SERS profile produced may change depending on mutations in bacterial DNA that confer specific antibiotic resistance.



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