The mechanism by which pathogenic bacteria cross the human blood-brain barrier was discovered

Recently, the team of Professor Wang Lei of Nankai University revealed for the first time that the three main bacteria that cause meningitis use the same mechanism to cross the blood-brain barrier, and elaborated their molecular mechanisms, which are of great significance for the prevention and treatment of meningitis. The research results were published online in the internationally renowned academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Bacterial meningitis is an inflammatory response caused by pathogenic bacterial infection including meninges, arachnoid and leptomeninge, with high morbidity and mortality, and even after cure, it may be accompanied by neurological sequelae such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and epilepsy, and has become one of the global public health problems. Therefore, in-depth study of the pathogenic mechanism of meningitis pathogenic bacteria, and then search for effective treatment and prevention and control methods for pathogenic bacterial infection has always been one of the research hotspots in the field of microbiology. The blood-brain barrier can protect the central nervous system from harmful substances or bacteria in the blood from entering the brain, while meningitis pathogenic bacteria can cross the blood-brain barrier, invade the brain, and then cause inflammation, but the molecular mechanism of this crossing mechanism has not been elucidated.

In response to this key problem, the research team of Nankai University found that the main meningitis pathogenic bacteria – Streptococcus pneumoniae, group B streptococcus, and Escherichia coli neonates crossed the blood-brain barrier by hijacking the intracellular transport of iron transporter receptors (TfR). The results suggest that the main meningitis pathogenic bacteria use a common mechanism to cross the blood-brain barrier, so the discovery of this mechanism provides a theoretical basis and potential target for the development of broad-spectrum drugs for the prevention and treatment of bacterial meningitis, and also provides a new idea for delivering drugs across the blood-brain barrier.

Schematic diagram of the mechanism Courtesy of Nankai University

This is the fourth time that Wang Lei’s team has published important research results in PNAS after publishing the first PNAS paper of Nankai University in 2007. The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National Key Research and Development Program of China and other projects. Professor Wang Lei is the corresponding author of the paper, and researcher Cheng Zhihui, doctoral students Zheng Yangyang and Yangwen are the co-first authors of the paper. (Source: Cong Min, China Science News)

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