Meningitis Research Foundation

Trial of glycerol to treat adults with bacterial meningitis in Malawi

Used in combination with antibiotics, glycerol, a sweet tasting liquid that is widely used as a food additive, has recently been shown to reduce death rates by about one half in children with bacterial meningitis in South America. If similar results were found amongst adults, glycerol would represent a very significant advance in the treatment of bacterial meningitis.

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Registered Charity in England and Wales (1091105)




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Despite the advent of new antibiotics, bacterial meningitis remains an important cause of death and disability, particularly in resource-poor countries. We therefore urgently need additional therapies to improve the outcome. As glycerol is cheap and locally produced, it would be a particularly appropriate additional therapy for use in developing countries where meningitis is most common. One of the effects of meningitis is that it causes swelling of the brain inside the skull. This is an important factor contributing to the high death rate. Glycerol acts by pulling fluid out of the tissues and therefore reduces such swelling. Theoretically, this should help reduce the death rate seen in meningitis. In order to test its effectiveness, doctors conducting this study will treat some of their meningitis patients with glycerol and antibiotic therapy, and others with antibiotic therapy alone. They will monitor the patients closely for possible side effects throughout their stay in hospital. If they find an advantage from the use of glycerol in their hospital in Malawi, they plan to do a larger study involving four tropical research centres to test the effectiveness of glycerol in several different types of meningitis and in different populations. Total budget for 3-year project: Staff £78,778.00 Consumables £42,132.00 Other £33,958.00 Total £154,868.00 We have £57,985.00 restricted to this project and are trying to raise the remaining £96,883.00.