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BACKGROUND: In sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s, more than 600,000 people had epidemic meningococcal meningitis, of whom 10% died. The current recommended treatment by WHO is short-course long-acting oily chloramphenicol. Continuation of the production of this drug is uncertain, so simple alternatives need to be found. We assessed whether the efficacy of single-dose treatment of ceftriaxone was non-inferior to that of oily chloramphenicol for epidemic meningococcal meningitis. METHODS: In 2003, we undertook a randomised, open-label, non-inferiority trial in nine health-care facilities in Niger. Participants with suspected disease who were older than 2 months were randomly assigned to receive either chloramphenicol or ceftriaxone. Primary outcome was treatment failure (defined as death or clinical failure) at 72 h, measured with intention-to-treat and per-protocol analyses. FINDINGS: Of 510 individuals with suspected disease, 247 received ceftriaxone, 256 received chloramphenicol, and seven were lost to follow-up. The treatment failure rate at 72 h for the intention-to-treat analysis was 9% (22 patients) for both drug groups (risk difference 0.3%, 90% CI -3.8 to 4.5). Case fatality rates and clinical failure rates were equivalent in both treatment groups (14 [6%] ceftriaxone vs 12 [5%] chloramphenicol). Results were also similar for both treatment groups in individuals with confirmed meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis. No adverse side-effects were reported. INTERPRETATION: Single-dose ceftriaxone provides an alternative treatment for epidemic meningococcal meningitis--its efficacy, ease of use, and low cost favour its use. National and international health partners should consider ceftriaxone as an alternative first-line treatment to chloramphenicol for epidemic meningococcal meningitis.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/S0140-6736(05)66792-X

Type

Journal article

Journal

Lancet

Publication Date

23/07/2005

Volume

366

Pages

308 - 313

Keywords

Adolescent, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Ceftriaxone, Child, Child, Preschool, Chloramphenicol, Disease Outbreaks, Female, Humans, Injections, Intramuscular, Male, Meningitis, Meningococcal, Niger, Survival Rate, Treatment Failure