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Acta Neuropathol. 2007 Dec;114(6):609-17. Epub 2007 Oct 16.

An infant mouse model of brain damage in pneumococcal meningitis.

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Institute for Infectious Diseases, University of Bern, Friedbühlstrasse 51, 3010, Bern, Switzerland.


Bacterial meningitis due to Streptococcus pneumoniae is associated with an significant mortality rate and persisting neurologic sequelae including sensory-motor deficits, seizures, and impairments of learning and memory. The histomorphological correlate of these sequelae is a pattern of brain damage characterized by necrotic tissue damage in the cerebral cortex and apoptosis of neurons in the hippocampal dentate gyrus. Different animal models of pneumococcal meningitis have been developed to study the pathogenesis of the disease. To date, the infant rat model is unique in mimicking both forms of brain damage documented in the human disease. In the present study, we established an infant mouse model of pneumococcal meningitis. Eleven-days-old C57BL/6 (n = 299), CD1 (n = 42) and BALB/c (n = 14) mice were infected by intracisternal injection of live Streptococcus pneumoniae. Sixteen hours after infection, all mice developed meningitis as documented by positive bacterial cultures of the cerebrospinal fluid. Sixty percent of infected C57BL/6 mice survived more than 40 h after infection (50% of CD1, 0% of BALB/c). Histological evaluations of brain sections revealed apoptosis in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus in 27% of infected C57BL/6 and in 5% of infected CD1 mice. Apoptosis was confirmed by immunoassaying for active caspase-3 and by TUNEL staining. Other forms of brain damage were found exclusively in C57BL/6, i.e. caspase-3 independent (pyknotic) cell death in the dentate gyrus in 2% and cortical damage in 11% of infected mice. This model may prove useful for studies on the pathogenesis of brain injury in childhood bacterial meningitis.

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