A journey into the brain: insight into how bacterial pathogens cross blood-brain barriers

Nat Rev Microbiol. 2017 Mar;15(3):149-159. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro.2016.178. Epub 2017 Jan 16.


The blood-brain barrier, which is one of the tightest barriers in the body, protects the brain from insults, such as infections. Indeed, only a few of the numerous blood-borne bacteria can cross the blood-brain barrier to cause meningitis. In this Review, we focus on invasive extracellular pathogens, such as Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae, group B Streptococcus and Escherichia coli, to review the obstacles that bacteria have to overcome in order to invade the meninges from the bloodstream, and the specific skills they have developed to bypass the blood-brain barrier. The medical importance of understanding how these barriers can be circumvented is underlined by the fact that we need to improve drug delivery into the brain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Brain Barrier / microbiology*
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Escherichia coli / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Meninges / microbiology
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / microbiology
  • Meningitis, Bacterial / pathology*
  • Neisseria meningitidis / pathogenicity*
  • Streptococcus agalactiae / pathogenicity*
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / pathogenicity*