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BACKGROUND: Adjunctive dexamethasone reduces mortality from tuberculous meningitis, but how it produces this effect is not known. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are important in the immunopathology of many inflammatory CNS diseases thus we hypothesized that that their secretion is important in TBM and might be influenced by dexamethasone. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The kinetics of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) MMP and tissue inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPs) concentrations were studied in a subset of HIV uninfected adults (n = 37) with TBM recruited to a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of adjuvant dexamethasone. Analysis followed a pre-defined plan. Dexamethasone significantly reduced CSF MMP-9 concentrations in early follow up samples (median 5 days (range 3-8) of treatment), but had no significant influence on other MMPs/TIMPs. Additionally CSF MMP-9 concentration was strongly correlated to concomitant CSF neutrophil count. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Dexamethasone decreased CSF MMP-9 concentrations early in treatment and this may represent one mechanism by which corticosteroids improve outcome in TBM. The strong correlation between CSF MMP-9 and neutrophil count suggests that polymorphonuclear leukocytes may play a central role in the early pathogenesis of TBM.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Adult, Cerebrospinal Fluid, Chemotherapy, Adjuvant, Dexamethasone, Female, Glucocorticoids, Humans, Kinetics, Male, Matrix Metalloproteinase 9, Matrix Metalloproteinases, Middle Aged, Neutrophils, Placebos, Treatment Outcome, Tuberculosis, Meningeal