Presence of Chlamydia pneumoniae DNA in the cerebral spinal fluid is a common phenomenon in a variety of neurological diseases and not restricted to multiple sclerosis

Ann Neurol. 2001 May;49(5):585-9.


Chlamydial DNA and viable organisms have been reported in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. We investigated whether this phenomenon is specific for MS and not occurring in patients with other neurological diseases (OND) or in healthy controls and whether it is caused by infected blood monocytes having crossed the blood-brain barrier. Twelve (21%) of fifty-eight MS patients and 20 (43%) of 47 OND patients had Chlamydia pneumoniae DNA in the CSF as determined by nested polymerase chain reaction. Viable organisms were cultured from one OND patient. We failed to detect C. pneumoniae in the CSF of 67 neurologically healthy persons. C. pneumoniae was detected in parallel in the blood monocytes of 2 of 6 CSF-positive MS patients and in 8 of 10 CSF-positive OND patients. Thus, chlamydial presence cannot exclusively be explained as being caused by contaminating infected monocytes that have crossed the blood-brain barrier. In peripheral blood mononuclear cell-negative patients, chlamydia have been cleared from the circulation but persist in the central nervous system (CNS), indicating the establishment of a chronic process. In summary, the presence of C. pneumoniae in patients with neurological diseases is a common phenomenon and is not restricted to MS patients. The pathogenetic relevance of a chronic chlamydial CNS infection for neurological diseases remains unclear, but the hypothesis that susceptible patients may be impaired in their ability to clear chlamydiae from the CNS requires further examination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae / genetics
  • Chlamydophila pneumoniae / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Bacterial / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / blood
  • Multiple Sclerosis / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Nervous System Diseases / blood
  • Nervous System Diseases / cerebrospinal fluid*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • DNA, Bacterial