Burkholderia pseudomallei rapidly infects the brain stem and spinal cord via the trigeminal nerve after intranasal inoculation

James A. St John, Heidi Walkden, Lynn Nazareth, Kenneth W. Beagley, Glen C. Ulett, Michael R. Batzloff, Ifor R. Beacham*, Jenny A Ekberg

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Infection with Burkholderia pseudomallei causes melioidosis, a disease with a high mortality rate (20% in Australia and 40% in Southeast Asia). Neurological melioidosis is particularly prevalent in northern Australian patients and involves brain stem infection, which can progress to the spinal cord; however, the route by which the bacteria invade the central nervous system (CNS) is unknown. We have previously demonstrated that B. pseudomallei can infect the olfactory and trigeminal nerves within the nasal cavity following intranasal inoculation. As the trigeminal nerve projects into the brain stem, we investigated whether the bacteria could continue along this nerve to penetrate the CNS. After intranasal inoculation of mice, B. pseudomallei caused low-level localized infection within the nasal cavity epithelium, prior to invasion of the trigeminal nerve in small numbers. B. pseudomallei rapidly invaded the trigeminal nerve and crossed the astrocytic barrier to enter the brain stem within 24 h and then rapidly progressed over 2,000 μminto the spinal cord. To rule out that the bacteria used a hematogenous route, we used a capsule-deficient mutant of B. pseudomallei that does not survive in the blood and found that it also entered the CNS via the trigeminal nerve. This suggests that the primary route of entry is via the nerves that innervate the nasal cavity. We found that actin-mediated motility could facilitate initial infection of the olfactory epithelium. Thus, we have demonstrated that B. pseudomallei can rapidly infect the brain and spinal cord via the trigeminal nerve branches that innervate the nasal cavity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2681-2688
Number of pages8
JournalInfection and Immunity
Volume84
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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St John, J. A., Walkden, H., Nazareth, L., Beagley, K. W., Ulett, G. C., Batzloff, M. R., ... Ekberg, J. A. (2016). Burkholderia pseudomallei rapidly infects the brain stem and spinal cord via the trigeminal nerve after intranasal inoculation. Infection and Immunity, 84(9), 2681-2688. https://doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00361-16