Reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) contribute to neuronal injury in cerebral ischemia and trauma. In this study we explored the role of ROI in bacterial meningitis. Meningitis caused by group B streptococci in infant rats led to two distinct forms of neuronal injury, areas of necrosis in the cortex and neuronal loss in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, the latter showing evidence for apoptosis. Staining of brain sections with diaminobenzidine after perfusion with manganese buffer and measurement of lipid peroxidation products in brain homogenates both provided evidence that meningitis led to the generation of ROI. Treatment with the radical scavenger alpha-phenyl-tert-butyl nitrone (PBN) (100 mg/kg q8h i.p.) beginning at the time of infection completely abolished ROI detection and the increase in lipidperoxidation. Cerebral cortical perfusion was reduced in animals with meningitis to 37.5+/-21.0% of uninfected controls (P < 0.05), and PBN restored cortical perfusion to 72.0+/-8.1% of controls (P < 0.05 vs meningitis). PBN also completely prevented neuronal injury in the cortex and hippocampus, when started at the time of infection (P < 0.02), and significantly reduced both forms of injury, when started 18 h after infection together with antibiotics (P < 0.004 for cortex and P < 0.001 for hippocampus). These data indicate that the generation of ROI is a major contributor to cerebral ischemia and necrotic and apoptotic neuronal injury in this model of neonatal meningitis.
S L Leib, Y S Kim, L L Chow, R A Sheldon, M G Täuber