AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017


Maternal Bacterial Infections Trigger Abnormal Proliferation of Neurons in Fetal Brain

Scientists for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have discovered a possible connection between maternal bacterial infections and an increased risk of autism and other cognitive problems in children. They have found that pieces of bacterial cell wall cross the placenta and enter the fetus’ developing neurons which then alters the fetal brain anatomy and cognitive functioning after birth. This finding and research also brings into question which types of antibiotics should be used to treat such infections. “The finding was unexpected because in children and adults with pneumococcal infections can lead to meningitis and the death of neurons,” said the study’s corresponding author Elaine Tuomanen, MD, chair of St. Jude Department of Infectious Disease. “This study in a mouse model of the bacterial infection found that prenatally the opposite is true. The evidence suggests maternal infections cause a signaling event that leads to the proliferation and reorganization of neurons in the developing brain that is defective in some way, maybe do to overcrowding.” To read more, click here


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