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Tuberculous meningitis causes substantial mortality and morbidity in children and adults. More research is urgently needed to better understand the pathogenesis of disease and to improve its clinical management and outcome. A major stumbling block is the absence of standardised diagnostic criteria. The different case definitions used in various studies makes comparison of research findings difficult, prevents the best use of existing data, and limits the management of disease. To address this problem, a 3-day tuberculous meningitis workshop took place in Cape Town, South Africa, and was attended by 41 international participants experienced in the research or management of tuberculous meningitis. During the meeting, diagnostic criteria were assessed and discussed, after which a writing committee was appointed to finalise a consensus case definition for tuberculous meningitis for use in future clinical research. We present the consensus case definition together with the rationale behind the recommendations. This case definition is applicable irrespective of the patient's age, HIV infection status, or the resources available in the research setting. Consistent use of the proposed case definition will aid comparison of studies, improve scientific communication, and ultimately improve care.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Infect Dis

Publication Date





803 - 812


Biomedical Research, Humans, South Africa, Tuberculosis, Meningeal