The objective of this study was to study the clinical features and laboratory profile including acid fast bacillus microscopy, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) culture and M. tuberculosis polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for an early diagnosis of tuberculous meningitis. Fifty consecutive patients, fulfilling the clinical criteria of tuberculous meningitis, were included in the study. All patients were subjected to detailed clinical and laboratory evaluation and radiological tests. CSF acid fast bacillus microscopy, culture and PCR were carried out in all and results were analysed. Majority of the patients presented with fever, headache, vomiting and signs of meningeal Irritation. Ziehl-Neelsen staining for acid-fast bacillus was positive in 4% cases, culture in 18% cases and CSF PCR for Mycobacterium tuberculosis was positive in 68%. Miliary pattern on chest x-ray was seen in 16% and CNS tuberculomas were seen in 14% cases. The CSF PCR estimation in clinically suspected cases of tuberculous meningitis may be an extremely valuable test for early diagnosis and institution of specific therapy.
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