Shielding the brain
Munich/Amsterdam – Researchers from the LMU Munich and the Academic Medical Center Amsterdam have found a way to predict disease outcome in patients with life-threatening bacterial meningitis. In a nationwide genetic association study, the group led by Diederick van Beek discovered that a gene variant (rs17611) of the C5 protein of the complement cascade is linked to a bad prognosis of the highly dangerous infection. In both patients and in transgenic mice lacking the C5a receptor, they found that elevated levels of the C5a protein are responsible for the intensity of the pro-inflammatory response to the bacterial infection that causes apoptosis and brain damage. In a mouse model, a C5 antibody protected 100% of infected mice and delivered better outcomes than dexamethasone, the current standard of care. C5 antibodies such as eculizumab or pexelizumab are already in clinical Phase II development, and might present a promising treatment option for patients with a poor prognosis.