The first line of defense used by the human blood-brain barrier in response to bacterial meningitis is described by researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine in a study published in the September 2, 2003 issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation. The scientists also describe two bacterial factors specific to the meningitis pathogen that thwart the normal protective role of the blood-brain barrier, leading to serious infection.
Schematic illustration of the blood-brain barrier response to the bacterium.Group B Streptococcus during newborn meningitis. Endothelial cells activate genes and produce protein factors that summon white blood cells to the brain to help fight the infection.
Kelly Doran, Ph.D., lead author
Composed of a layer of blood vessels called brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMEC), the blood-brain barrier separates the brain and its surrounding tissues from the circulating blood, tightly regulating the flow of nutrients and molecules and thereby maintaining the proper biochemical conditions for normal brain function.
Bacterial meningitis, a serious brain infection, can develop rapidly into a life-threatening infection even in previously healthy children or adults. Bacteria-producing meningitis enter the human bloodstream, are carried toward the brain, and somehow manage to cross the defensive line of the blood-brain barrier.
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