Tuberculous meningitis in infants and children: insights from nuclear magnetic resonance metabolomics
Reinecke, Carolus J.
Van Furth, A. Marceline
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Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is a prevalent form of central nervous system tuberculosis (CNS-TB) and the most severe common form of bacterial meningitis in infants and children below the age of 13 years, especially in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Research to identify markers for timely and accurate diagnosis and treatment outcomes remains high on the agenda for TBM, in respect of which the field of metabolomics is as yet largely unexploited. However, the national Department of Science and Technology (DST) recently established several biotechnology platforms at South African institutions, including one for metabolomics hosted at North-West University. We introduce this national platform for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) metabolomics by providing an overview of work on TBM. We focus on selected collaborative multidisciplinary approaches to this disease and conclude with the outcomes of an untargeted NMR metabolomics study of cerebrospinal fluid from TBM patients. This study enabled the formulation of a conceptual shuttle representing the unique metabolic plasticity of CNS metabolism towards the energy requirements for the microglia-driven neuroinflammatory responses, of which TBM is one example. From insights generated by this explorative NMR metabolomics investigation, we propose directions for future in-depth research strategies to address this devastating disease. In our view, the timely initiative of the DST, the operational expertise in metabolomics now available and the potential for involving national and international networks in this field of research offers remarkable opportunities for the future of metabolomics in South Africa and for an ever greater understanding of disease mechanisms