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Rapid Meningitis Test Approved

Helps distinguish between viral and bacterial forms

FRIDAY, March 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- A rapid test to help distinguish between viral meningitis and a more severe bacterial form has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Xpert EV test, used in combination with other diagnostics, can help doctors decide on a course of treatment. Meningitis is an infection of the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain, and current test results typically take up to a week to obtain, the FDA said. The new test delivers results in about 2 1/2 hours.

People with both forms of meningitis have similar symptoms, including fever, severe headache, stiff neck, nausea, fatigue, confusion and sensitivity to bright light. People with the viral form typically recover within two weeks without treatment, the agency said. But the more dangerous bacterial form, which can lead to brain damage, hearing loss and death, requires medical intervention, including antibiotics.

The Xpert EV test detects the presence of a class of viruses called Enterovirus, which cause about 90 percent of viral meningitis cases, the FDA said.

The test was developed by Cepheid, a company based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

More information

To learn more about meningitis, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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