Despite effective antibiotic therapy, brain-destructive inflammation often cannot be avoided in pneumococcal meningitis. The causative signals are mediated predominantly through TLR-recruited myeloid differentiation primary response adaptor 88 (MyD88), as indicated by a dramatic pneumococcal meningitis phenotype of Myd88–/– mice. Because lipoproteins and single-stranded RNA are crucial for recognition of Gram-positive bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae by the host immune system, we comparatively analyzed the disease courses of Myd88–/– and Tlr2–/– Tlr13–/– mice. Their phenotypic resemblance indicated TLR2 and -13 as master sensors of S. pneumoniae in the cerebrospinal fluid. A neutralizing anti-TLR2 antibody (T2.5) and chloroquine (CQ) — the latter applied here as an inhibitor of murine TLR13 and its human ortholog TLR8 — abrogated activation of murine and human primary immune cells exposed to antibiotic-treated S. pneumoniae. The inhibitory effect of the T2.5/CQ cocktail was stronger than that of dexamethasone, the current standard adjunctive drug for pneumococcal meningitis. Accordingly, TLR2/TLR13 blockade concomitant with ceftriaxone application significantly improved the clinical course of pneumococcal meningitis compared with treatment with ceftriaxone alone or in combination with dexamethasone. Our study indicates the importance of murine TLR13 and human TLR8, besides TLR2, in pneumococcal meningitis pathology, and suggests their blockade as a promising antibiotic therapy adjunct.


Susanne Dyckhoff-Shen, Ilias Masouris, Heba Islam, Sven Hammerschmidt, Barbara Angele, Veena Marathe, Jan Buer, Stefanie Völk, Hans-Walter Pfister, Matthias Klein, Uwe Koedel, Carsten J. Kirschning


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