Recurrent Meningitis

  • Jon Rosenberg
  • Benjamin T. Galen
Secondary Headache (M Robbins, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Secondary Headache


Purpose of Review

Recurrent meningitis is a rare clinical scenario that can be self-limiting or life threatening depending on the underlying etiology. This review describes the causes, risk factors, treatment, and prognosis for recurrent meningitis. As a general overview of a broad topic, the aim of this review is to provide clinicians with a comprehensive differential diagnosis to aide in the evaluation and management of a patient with recurrent meningitis.

Recent Findings

New developments related to understanding the pathophysiology of recurrent meningitis are as scarce as studies evaluating the treatment and prevention of this rare disorder. A trial evaluating oral valacyclovir suppression after HSV-2 meningitis did not demonstrate a benefit in preventing recurrences. The data on prophylactic antibiotics after basilar skull fractures do not support their use. Intrathecal trastuzumab has shown promise in treating leptomeningeal carcinomatosis from HER-2 positive breast cancer. Monoclonal antibodies used to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases are new potential causes of drug-induced aseptic meningitis.


Despite their potential for causing recurrent meningitis, the clinical entities reviewed herein are not frequently discussed together given that they are a heterogeneous collection of unrelated, rare diseases. Epidemiologic data on recurrent meningitis are lacking. The syndrome of recurrent benign lymphocytic meningitis described by Mollaret in 1944 was later found to be closely related to HSV-2 reactivation, but HSV-2 is by no means the only etiology of recurrent aseptic meningitis. While the mainstay of treatment for recurrent meningitis is supportive care, it is paramount to ensure that reversible and treatable causes have been addressed for further prevention.


Recurrent meningitis Mollaret meningitis Recurrent bacterial meningitis Recurrent benign lymphocytic meningitis Autoimmune disease Headache 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Jon Rosenberg and Benjamin T. Galen declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hospital MedicineAlbert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical CenterBronxUSA

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