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Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2014 Jan 23. [Epub ahead of print]

Endolymphatic sac involvement in bacterial meningitis.

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  • 1Department of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University Hospital Rigshospitalet/Gentofte, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark, martin@nuemoller.dk.


The commonest sequelae of bacterial meningitis are related to the inner ear. Little is known about the inner ear immune defense. Evidence suggests that the endolymphatic sac provides some protection against infection. A potential involvement of the endolymphatic sac in bacterial meningitis is largely unaccounted for, and thus the object of the present study. A well-established adult rat model of Streptococcus pneumoniae meningitis was employed. Thirty adult rats were inoculated intrathecally with Streptococcus pneumoniae and received no additional treatment. Six rats were sham-inoculated. The rats were killed when reaching terminal illness or on day 7, followed by light microscopy preparation and PAS-Alcian blue staining. The endolymphatic sac was examined for bacterial invasion and leukocyte infiltration. Neither bacteria nor leukocytes infiltrated the endolymphatic sac during the first days. Bacteria invaded the inner ear through the cochlear aquaduct. On days 5-6, the bacteria invaded the endolymphatic sac through the endolymphatic duct subsequent to invasion of the vestibular endolymphatic compartment. No evidence of direct bacterial invasion of the sac through the meninges was found. Leukocyte infiltration of the sac occurred prior to bacterial invasion. During meningitis, bacteria do not invade the endolymphatic sac through the dura, but solely through the endolymphatic duct, following the invasion of the vestibular system. Leukocyte infiltration of the sac occurs prior to, as well as concurrent with bacterial invasion. The findings support the endolymphatic sac as part of an innate immune defense system protecting the inner ear from infection.

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