The objectives of this study were to characterize Lyme meningitis (LM) in the pediatric population; to compare LM with viral meningitis (VM) with respect to epidemiology, history and physical examination, and laboratory data; and to provide means of early distinction of Lyme neuroborreliosis from other forms of aseptic meningitis.


This retrospective analysis involved children admitted to Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children between 1990 and 1996 whose discharge diagnoses indicated viral or aseptic meningitis or Lyme disease. LM was defined as the presence of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pleocytosis with positive Lyme serology and/or erythema migrans. Patients were considered to have VM if they exhibited CSF pleocytosis and had a positive viral culture. Demographic, clinical, and laboratory data were collected for each patient, and patients with LM were compared with age-matched patients with VM.


Of 179 patient records, 12 patients with LM and 10 patients with VM (all, >2 years old) were identified by using the above criteria. In comparing LM patients with VM patients, we noted no differences among demographic variables. Children with LM had significantly lower temperatures at the time of presentation. The presence of headache, neck pain, and malaise was similar for the two groups, but the duration of these symptoms was significantly longer among LM patients. Five children with LM had cranial neuropathies. All but 1 LM patient exhibited either papilledema, erythema migrans, or cranial neuropathy. These three findings were absent in the VM group. On CSF analysis, LM patients had fewer white blood cells (mean, 80/mm3 versus 301/mm3) and a significantly greater percentage of mononuclear cells than the VM patients.


In this study, in a Lyme-endemic area, LM was about as common as VM in older children who were hospitalized with aseptic meningitis. Attention to pertinent epidemiologic and historical data, along with physical and CSF findings, allows early differentiation of LM from VM.

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