BACKGROUND The kynurenine pathway (KP) has been identified as a potential mediator linking acute illness to cognitive dysfunction by generating neuroactive metabolites in response to inflammation. Delirium (acute confusion) is a common complication of acute illness and is associated with increased risk of dementia and mortality. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying delirium, particularly in relation to the KP, remain elusive.METHODS We undertook a multicenter observational study with 586 hospitalized patients (248 with delirium) and investigated associations between delirium and KP metabolites measured in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum by targeted metabolomics. We also explored associations between KP metabolites and markers of neuronal damage and 1-year mortality.RESULTS In delirium, we found concentrations of the neurotoxic metabolite quinolinic acid in CSF (CSF-QA) (OR 2.26 [1.78, 2.87], P < 0.001) to be increased and also found increases in several other KP metabolites in serum and CSF. In addition, CSF-QA was associated with the neuronal damage marker neurofilament light chain (NfL) (β 0.43, P < 0.001) and was a strong predictor of 1-year mortality (HR 4.35 [2.93, 6.45] for CSF-QA ≥ 100 nmol/L, P < 0.001). The associations between CSF-QA and delirium, neuronal damage, and mortality remained highly significant following adjustment for confounders and multiple comparisons.CONCLUSION Our data identified how systemic inflammation, neurotoxicity, and delirium are strongly linked via the KP and should inform future delirium prevention and treatment clinical trials that target enzymes of the KP.FUNDING Norwegian Health Association and South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authorities.


Leiv Otto Watne, Christian Thomas Pollmann, Bjørn Erik Neerland, Else Quist-Paulsen, Nathalie Bodd Halaas, Ane-Victoria Idland, Bjørnar Hassel, Kristi Henjum, Anne-Brita Knapskog, Frede Frihagen, Johan Raeder, Aasmund Godø, Per Magne Ueland, Adrian McCann, Wender Figved, Geir Selbæk, Henrik Zetterberg, Evandro F. Fang, Marius Myrstad, Lasse M. Giil


Download this citation for these citation managers:

Or, download this citation in these formats:

If you experience problems using these citation formats, send us feedback.