Background: Pneumococcal meningitis is associated with high mortality and morbidity rates. Up to 50% of survivors show neurologic sequelae including hearing loss, cognitive impairments and learning disabilities, being particularly detrimental in affected infants and children where adjuvant therapy with dexamethasone has no proven beneficial effect. We evaluated the effect of concomitantly targeting specific pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for brain damage-i.e. matrix-metalloproteinase (MMP) activity and the exacerbated cerebral inflammation provoked through antibiotic-induced bacterial lysis. Here, we combined adjunctive therapies previously shown to be neuroprotective when used as single adjuvant therapies.
Methods: Eleven-day-old Wistar rats were infected intracisternally with 6.44 ± 2.17 × 103 CFU Streptococcus pneumoniae and randomised for treatment with ceftriaxone combined with (a) single adjuvant therapy with daptomycin (n = 24), (b) single adjuvant therapy with Trocade (n = 24), (c) combined adjuvant therapy (n = 66) consisting of daptomycin and Trocade, or (d) ceftriaxone monotherapy (n = 42). Clinical parameters and inflammatory CSF cytokine levels were determined during acute meningitis. Cortical damage and hippocampal apoptosis were assessed 42 h after infection. Morris water maze and auditory brainstem responses were used to assess neurofunctional outcome 3 weeks after infection.
Results: We found significantly reduced apoptosis in the hippocampal subgranular zone in infant rats receiving adjuvant Trocade (p < 0.01) or combined adjuvant therapy (p < 0.001). Cortical necrosis was significantly reduced in rats treated with adjuvant daptomycin (p < 0.05) or combined adjuvant therapy (p < 0.05) compared to ceftriaxone monotherapy. Six hours after treatment initiation, CSF cytokine levels were significantly reduced for TNF-α (p < 0.01), IL-1β (p < 0.01), IL-6 (p < 0.001) and IL-10 (p < 0.01) in animals receiving combined adjuvant intervention compared to ceftriaxone monotherapy. Importantly, combined adjuvant therapy significantly improved learning and memory performance in infected animals and reduced hearing loss (77.14 dB vs 60.92 dB, p < 0.05) by preserving low frequency hearing capacity, compared to ceftriaxone monotherapy.
Conclusion: Combined adjuvant therapy with the non-bacteriolytic antibiotic daptomycin and the MMP inhibitor Trocade integrates the neuroprotective effects of both single adjuvants in experimental paediatric pneumococcal meningitis by reducing neuroinflammation and brain damage, thereby improving neurofunctional outcome. This strategy represents a promising therapeutic option to improve the outcome of paediatric patients suffering from pneumococcal meningitis.
Keywords: Brain injury; Combined adjuvant therapy; Hearing loss; Neuroinflammation; Neurologic sequelae; Pneumococcal meningitis.