Several pathogens spread inside the body of a host organism, including human beings. However, the deadliest pathogens are the ones that affect the neural system, especially the brain, because these would then affect the sensory and motor functioning of the body.
In a recent study published in the journal ‘Plos Pathogens’, researchers studied how a rare fungus Cryptococcus neoformans multiplies inside lab-grown zebrafish and causes meningitis to spread from the bloodstream into the nervous system. The scientists discovered that fungal meningitis spread in the zebrafish by obstructing and shattering blood vessels in the brain.
Meninges are the outermost layer of the brain and spinal cord that protects the central nervous system. Sometimes when bacteria or fungi invade the nervous system, they cause the swelling and inflammation of this layer and result in a condition called meningitis. If not immediately detected and treated, meningitis can be life-threatening. Meningitis commonly occurs among people with weakened immune systems or who are affected by HIV/AIDS. In addition, people who undergo organ transplants are also at risk of developing this condition.
Through this study, the researchers finally uncovered how the fungi Cryptococcus neoformans spreads and develops meningitis. The scientists observed that the fungi, even if present in small numbers, would attack the blood vessels and restrict the blood flow. With the multiplication of the microbes, the constriction of blood vessels would increase the blood pressure inside the vessels. Because of this increasing pressure, the blood vessels would expand and eventually rupture, causing the release of the pathogen into the brain tissues.
Furthermore, the researchers also discovered that after the multiplication of the fungi, it takes a couple of days before the blood vessels start to burst. That means doctors have about a couple of days to diagnose the condition and start an effective treatment against the deathly condition. Effective treatment strategies can be developed with further studies to cure the condition completely.