Meningococcal septic shock is associated with profound vasoplegia, early and severe myocardial dysfunction, and extended skin necrosis responsible for a specific clinical entity designated purpura fulminans (PF). PF represents 90% of fatal meningococcal infections. One characteristic of meningococcal PF is the myocardial dysfunction that occurs in the early phase of sepsis. Furthermore, hemodynamic studies have shown that the prognosis of meningococcal sepsis is directly related to the degree of impairment of cardiac contractility during the initial phase of the disease. To gain insight into a potential interaction of Neisseria meningitidis with the myocardial microvasculature, we modified a previously described humanized mouse model by grafting human myocardial tissue to SCID mice. We then infected the grafted mice with N. meningitides Using the humanized SCID mouse model, we demonstrated that N. meningitidis targets the human myocardial tissue vasculature, leading to the formation of blood thrombi, infectious vasculitis, and vascular leakage. These results suggest a novel mechanism of myocardial injury in the course of severe N. meningitidis sepsis that is likely to participate in primary myocardial dysfunction.
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