The central nervous system (CNS) is the part of the body’s nervous system that includes the brain and spinal cord. It controls most functions of the body and mind. An infection of the central nervous system can be a life-threatening condition, especially for children with weakened immune systems. These infections need quick diagnosis and immediate treatment by an infectious disease specialist. Bacteria, fungi and viruses are the most common causes of CNS infections.
Central nervous system infections caused by bacteria or fungi can cause illnesses such as:
Symptoms of bacterial or fungal central nervous system infections may include:
Central nervous system infections caused by viruses can cause illnesses such as:
Symptoms of viral central nervous system infections may include:
If you think your child may have a CNS infection, see a doctor immediately.
The doctor will examine your child and look for signs and symptoms of a CNS infection. Testing may include:
Treatment for CNS infections varies depending on the type of infection, the location of the infection and your child’s overall health.
For bacterial or fungal CNS infections, treatment may include antibiotics, intravenous (IV) fluids, anticonvulsants for seizures and steroids for brain swelling.
Many CNS viral infections resolve without anti-viral treatment but may require supportive care and can cause long-lasting brain injury. Effective anti-viral medicines are available for CNS herpes simplex virus infection and should be given immediately to children with this infection.
Learn more about central nervous system infections at the websites below.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This government website provides information about all types of meningitis, including bacterial, viral and fungal.
This website offers information about meningitis and encephalitis.
One of the most common serious infections that affect the central nervous system worldwide is cerebral malaria, an infection caused by the malaria parasite. Cerebral malaria is rare in the United States, though it does sometimes occur in children or adults who travel to areas with malaria and then return to the United States.
In Africa, more than 100,000 children every year develop cerebral malaria. Doctors with the Infectious Diseases Department at Riley at IU Health are conducting research to find out why some children develop this terrible complication of malaria and how long-term brain injury can be prevented in the
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
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