Meningitis is a condition in which the membranes around the spinal cord and brain become inflamed or infected. It can be caused by numerous infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi; certain forms of cancer can also cause this type of inflammation. Meningitis is a potentially dangerous and deadly medical condition; if it is bacteria, parasitic, viral or fungal in nature, the patient will be prescribed drugs designed to kill the microbes or limit their ability to spread and replicate. Bacterial meningitis has a high mortality rate if it goes untreated; viral meningitis tends to run its course fairly rapidly, with fewer serious side effects.