Background: Bacterial meningitis is characterized by an intense inflammatory reaction contributing to neuronal damage. The aim of this study was to obtain a comparative analysis of cytokines and chemokines in patients with pneumococcal (PM) and meningococcal meningitis (MM) considering that a clear difference between the immune response induced by these pathogens remains unclear.
Methods: The cyto/chemokines, IL-1β, IL-2, IL-6, TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-10, IL-1Ra, CXCL8/IL-8, CCL2/MCP-1, CLL3/MIP-1α, CCL4/MIP-1γ and G-CSF, were measured in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples from patients with PM and MM. Additionally, a literature review about the expression of cytokines in CSF samples of patients with MB was made.
Results: Concerning cytokines levels, only IFN-γ was significantly higher in patients with Streptococcus pneumoniae compared to those with Neisseria meningitidis, regardless of the time when the lumbar puncture (LP) was made. Furthermore, when samples were compared considering the timing of the LP, higher levels of TNF-α (P <0.05) were observed in MM patients whose LP was made within 48 h from the initial symptoms of disease. We also observed that the index of release of cyto/chemokines per cell was significantly higher in PM. From the literature review, it was observed that TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6 are the best studied cytokines, while reports describing the concentration of the cytokine IL-2, IL-1Ra, G-CSF and CCL4/MIP-1β in CSF samples of patients with bacterial meningitis were not found.
Conclusion: The data obtained in this study and the previously published data show a similar profile of cytokine expression during PM and MM. Nevertheless, the high levels of IFN-γ and the ability to release high levels of cytokines with a low number of cells are important factors to be considered in the pathogenesis of PM and thereby should be further investigated. Moreover, differences in the early response induced by the pathogens were observed. However, the differences observed are not sufficient to trigger changes in the current therapy of corticosteroids adopted in both the PM and MM.