One of the central, unanswered questions in perinatology is why preterm infants continue to have such poor long-term neurodevelopmental, cognitive and learning outcomes, even though severe brain injury is now rare. There is now strong clinical evidence that one factor underlying disability may be infection, as well as nonspecific inflammation, during fetal and early postnatal life. In this review, we examine the experimental evidence linking both acute and chronic infection/inflammation with perinatal brain injury and consider key experimental determinants, including the microglia response, relative brain and immune maturity and the pattern of exposure to infection. We highlight the importance of the origin and derivation of the bacterial cell wall component lipopolysaccharide. Such experimental paradigms are essential to determine the precise time course of the inflammatory reaction and to design targeted neuroprotective strategies to protect the perinatal brain from infection and inflammation.
© 2015 S. Karger AG, Basel.