Free sialic acid acts as a signal that promotes streptococcus pneumoniae invasion of nasal tissue and nonhematogenous invasion of the central nervous system

Academic Article


  • Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis and neurological sequelae in children worldwide. Acute bacterial meningitis is widely considered to result from bacteremia that leads to blood-brain barrier breakdown and bacterial dissemination throughout the central nervous system (CNS). Previously, we showed that pneumococci can gain access to the CNS through a nonhematogenous route without peripheral blood infection. This access is thought to occur when the pneumococci in the upper sinus follow the olfactory nerves and enter the CNS through the olfactory bulbs. In this study, we determined whether the addition of exogenous sialic acid postcolonization promotes nonhematogenous invasion of the CNS. Previously, others showed that treatment with exogenous sialic acid post-pneumococcal infection increased the numbers of CFU recovered from an intranasal mouse model of infection. Using a pneumococcal colonization model, an in vivo imaging system, and a multiplex assay for cytokine expression, we demonstrated that sialic acid can increase the number of pneumococci recovered from the olfactory bulbs and brains of infected animals. We also show that pneumococci primarily localize to the olfactory bulb, leading to increased expression levels of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines. These findings provide evidence that sialic acid can enhance the ability of pneumococci to disseminate into the CNS and provide details about the environment needed to establish nonhematogenous pneumococcal meningitis.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hatcher BL; Hale JY; Briles DE
  • Start Page

  • 2607
  • End Page

  • 2615
  • Volume

  • 84
  • Issue

  • 9