Bacterial meningitis strikes around 1,000 people in the U.S. every year, according to the CDC, and 10-14% of those cases are fatal. Researchers are drilling down into what happens in the spinal fluid to make a bad case of meningitis and deadly one, but they still know little about the role of one protein involved in the process: a component of the immune system called complement C3. This week, mBio features a study that shows the presence of complement C3 in spinal fluid correlates with survival, a fact that indicates it plays a key role in the pathogenesis of bacterial meningitis.
Looking for proteins that indicate survival, the team used samples of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from 80 patients with bacterial meningitis and 10 non-infected controls. The fluid samples were a useful resource for the team: they represented 40 meningitis patients who survived and 40 who did not. They measured the levels of several central nervous system and serum proteins that had been identified as possible indicators in earlier proteomics work. Goonetilleke et al. found that complement C3 was present at significantly higher concentration in the spinal fluid of patients who later pulled through than in patients who later died.
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