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J Infect Dis. 2001 Jan 15;183(2):247-252. Epub 2000 Dec 8.

The free radical scavenger alpha-phenyl-tert-butyl nitrone aggravates hippocampal apoptosis and learning deficits in experimental pneumococcal meningitis.

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Institute for Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


The effect of adjuvant therapy with the radical scavenger alpha-phenyl-tert-butyl nitrone (PBN; 100 mg/kg given intraperitoneally every 8 h for 5 days) on brain injury and learning function was evaluated in an infant rat model of pneumococcal meningitis. Meningitis led to cortical necrotic injury (median, 3.97% [range, 0%-38.9%] of the cortex), which was reduced to a median of 0% (range, 0%-30.9%) of the cortex (P<.001) by PBN. However, neuronal apoptosis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus was increased by PBN, compared with that by saline (median score, 1.15 [range, 0.04-1.73] vs. 0.31 [range, 0-0.92]; P<.001). Learning function 3 weeks after cured infection, as assessed by the Morris water maze, was decreased, compared with that in uninfected control animals (P<.001). Parallel to the increase in hippocampal apoptosis, PBN further impaired learning in infected animals, compared with that in saline-treated animals (P<.02). These results contrast with those of an earlier study, in which PBN reduced cortical and hippocampal neuronal injury in group B streptococcal meningitis. Thus, in pneumococcal meningitis, antioxidant therapy with PBN aggravates hippocampal injury and learning deficits.

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