Vascular endothelial growth factor and blood-brain barrier disruption in tuberculous meningitis
Background: Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is characterized by disruption of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), cerebral edema and increased intracranial pressure (ICP). Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent vascular permeability factor and a mediator of brain edema. Aims: To investigate whether in children with TBM disruption of the BBB relates to VEGF production and to assess the effect of corticosteroids on Mycobacterium tuberculosis-induced VEGF production by mononuclear leukocytes. Methods: Blood and CSF samples were collected from 26 children with stage 2-3 TBM and 20 controls. All patients received antituberculous and adjuvant corticosteroid therapy. Children were evaluated by ICP recording, computerized tomography scanning and outcome assessment at 6 months follow-up. BBB disruption was quantified by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-serum albumin ratios. VEGF concentrations were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. In vitro human monocytic THP-1 cells were stimulated with M. tuberculosis sonicate or culture supernatant, and VEGF production was measured in the presence or absence of corticosteroids. Results: CSF VEGF concentrations were significantly higher in TBM patients than in the controls and correlated with mononuclear cell counts (r = 0.64; P = 0.001) and CSF-serum albumin ratio (r = 0.49; P = 0.015). CSF VEGF did not significantly correlate with elevated ICP. In vitro induction of VEGF production by M. tuberculosis sonicate or culture supernatant could be completely abrogated by corticosteroid treatment. Conclusions: Inflammatory cells secrete VEGF during TBM. CSF VEGF correlates with BBB disruption. Inhibition of VEGF may explain part of the clinical effect of adjuvant corticosteroid therapy in TBM.