Photo credit: Serra Leone Times

Scientists have discovered a bacteria that is linked to a childhood disorder worldwide.

The scientists have found the bacteria linked to post-infectious hydrocephalus (PIH), the most popular cause of pediatric hydrocephalus worldwide.

Findings from this study directed by the Pennsylvania State University with the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) scientists and clinical colleagues in Uganda are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Hydrocephalus is the most popular indication for neurosurgery in kids. Of the approximate 400,000 new cases discovered every year, approximately half have been calculated to be post-infectious, with the most significant number of cases in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in the sub-Saharan Africa.

Neonatal sepsis mostly comes before PIH, even though the indications of hydrocephalus generally appear in the months that follows the neonatal period as cerebrospinal fluid compiles so that cranial growth garners medical attention. These babies generally die in their early childhood without any advanced surgical management.

Study co-first author Brent L. Williams, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology at CII, evaluated cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that was collected from 100 successive cases of PIH and control cases of non-post-infectious hydrocephalus (NPIH) in babies in Uganda, assessing the samples for indication of bacterial and fungal microorganisms. He discovered Paenibacillus species (bacteria) in CSF linked to cases of PIH, not controls.

Williams went ahead to evaluate Paenibacillus species that were found in infant CSF samples, discovering a very substantial burden of these bacteria in infected patients. The outcomes were thereafter independently substantiated, and a strain of Paenibacillus was set apart and characterised through additional testing by Steven Schiff, MD, the study’s senior author, and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University.

The researchers also discovered that Paenibacillus quantity was linked with clinical measures of hydrocephalus founded on brain imaging scores, as well as probable indications of infection based on immune cell counts in patients.

“This discovery has the potential to reduce morbidity and mortality of this central nervous system disease in millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa by shifting treatment from surgery to antibiotics and vaccines,” said Co-senior author W. Ian Lipkin, MD, John Snow Professor, and CII Director.

“Now that we have identified a pathogen that may be responsible for some cases of post-infectious hydrocephalus, we can develop new, more sensitive tests to quickly detect an infection, assess its severity, identify the source of such infections, and hopefully provide targeted treatments to prevent the development of hydrocephalus,” added Brent Williams.

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