The objective of this study was to investigate the antioxidant/oxidant status of serum and cerebrospinal fluid in children with meningismus and acute bacterial meningitis. Twenty-three children (age range, 0.75 to 9 years) with fever and meningeal signs that required analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid, but no cytologic or biochemical evidence of meningitis in their serum and cerebrospinal fluid, constituted the meningismus group. Thirty-one children (age range, 0.5 to 10 years) with acute bacterial meningitis constituted the meningitis group. Twenty-nine healthy children (age range, 0.5 to 11 years) were recruited as control subjects. Antioxidant status (ascorbic acid, albumin, thiol, uric acid, total bilirubin, total antioxidant capacity, catalase and ceruloplasmin concentrations) and oxidant status (lipid hydroperoxide and total oxidant status) were measured. The serum antioxidant status was lower, and oxidant status levels higher in both meningitis and meningismus subjects than in the control children (P < 0.001). Cerebrospinal fluid oxidant status was lower in the meningitis group than in the meningismus group (P < 0.05). These results indicate that serum antioxidant status was lower, and serum oxidant status was higher in children in the meningismus and meningitis groups, whereas cerebrospinal fluid oxidant status was higher in the meningismus group than in the meningitis group. (c) 2006 by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.