MadSci Network: Science History

Re: When was meningitis first discovered

Date: Mon Oct 24 07:15:40 2005
Posted By: Michael Weaver, Staff, Biology/Microbiology
Area of science: Science History
ID: 1129742433.Sh


This is a very difficult question since there are basically two types of meningitis, viral and bacterial, and each of these can be caused by many different viruses or bacterial species. I am going to assume that you are referring to the classic bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis. While the infection has probably been around as long as man has walked the earth, scientists did not describe the disease until 1805 during an outbreak in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the Meningitis Vaccine Project, the causative agent of meningococcal meningitis was first isolated from the cerebrospinal fluid of a patient in 1882 and finally identified as Neisseria meningitidis in 1887.

I hope this answers your question. If you would like to learn more about meningitis you can go to the website of the Meningitis Foundation of America at or the Meningitis Vaccine Project at

Michael Weaver
Merck & Co., Inc.

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