Microglia activation in sepsis: a case-control study

J Neuroinflammation. 2007 Jan 15:4:4. doi: 10.1186/1742-2094-4-4.


Background: Infection induces an acute phase response that is accompanied by non-specific symptoms collectively named sickness behavior. Recent observations suggest that microglial cells play a role in mediating behavioral changes in systemic infections. In animal models for sepsis it has been shown that after inducing lipopolysaccharide, LPS, microglia in the brain were activated. The aim of this study was to investigate whether activation of microglia can be detected in patients who died of sepsis.

Methods: In a case-control study brain tissue of 13 patients who died with sepsis was compared with that of 17 controls. Activated microglia were identified by expression of MHC-class II antigens and CD68. Microglia activation was analyzed by a semiquantitative score combining both the number of the immunoreactive cells and their morphology.

Results: In patients who died with sepsis there was a significant increase in activated microglia in the grey matter when stained with CD68 compared to controls. This effect was independent of the effect of age.

Conclusion: This study shows for the first time in human brain tissue an association between a systemic infection and activation of microglia in the brain. Activated microglia during sepsis could play a role in behavioral changes associated with systemic infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Microglia / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Sepsis / metabolism*
  • Sepsis / mortality
  • Sepsis / pathology