Dexamethasone aggravates hippocampal apoptosis and learning deficiency in pneumococcal meningitis in infant rats

Pediatr Res. 2003 Sep;54(3):353-7. doi: 10.1203/01.PDR.0000079185.67878.72. Epub 2003 Jun 4.


In an infant rat model of pneumococcal meningitis the effect of dexamethasone on neuronal injury in the hippocampus and on learning disability after recovery from the disease was examined. Treatment with dexamethasone or vehicle was started 18 h after infection, concomitant with antibiotics. Neuronal apoptosis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus 34 h after infection was significantly aggravated by dexamethasone treatment compared with vehicle controls (p = 0.02). Three weeks after acute pneumococcal meningitis, learning capacity of animals was assessed in the Morris water maze. The results showed a significantly impaired learning performance of infected animals treated with dexamethasone compared with vehicle controls (p = 0.01). Dexamethasone had no effect on hippocampal injury or learning in uninfected controls. Thus, dexamethasone as adjuvant therapy increased hippocampal cell injury and reduced learning capacity in this model of pneumococcal meningitis in infant rats.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Dexamethasone / metabolism*
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Hippocampus / pathology*
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Meningitis, Pneumococcal / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Dexamethasone