Cognitive impairment in tuberculous meningitis

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Cognitive impairment is reported as a common complication in adult tuberculous meningitis (TBM), yet few studies have systematically assessed the frequency and nature of impairment. Moreover, the impact of impairment on functioning and medication adherence is not described. METHODS: A cognitive test battery (10 measures assessing 7 cognitive domains) was administered to 34 participants with HIV-associated TBM 6 months post-diagnosis. Cognitive performance was compared to a comparator group of 66 people living with HIV (PLWH) without a history of TB. A secondary comparison was made between TBM cases and 26 participants with HIV 6-months post diagnosis of TB outside the central nervous system (CNS). Impact on functioning was evaluated, including through assessment of medication adherence. RESULTS: In TBM, 16/34 (47%) of participants had low performance on cognitive testing. Cognition was impaired across all domains. Global cognitive performance was significantly lower in TBM cases compared to PLWH (mean T-score 41 vs 48, p < 0.001). TBM cases also had lower global cognition compared to those with non-CNS TB (mean global T score 41 vs 46, p = 0.016). Functional outcomes did not significantly correlate with cognitive performance in the sub-group of participants where this was assessed (n = 19). CONCLUSIONS: Low cognitive performance following HIV-associated TBM is common. This effect is independent of, and additional to, effects of HIV and non-CNS TB disease. Further studies are needed to understand longer term outcomes, clarify the association with treatment adherence, a key predictor of outcome in TBM, and develop context-specific tools to identify individuals with cognitive difficulties to improve outcomes in TBM.

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