Chlamydia pneumoniae infection of the central nervous system in multiple sclerosis.
Our identification of Chlamydia pneumoniae in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of a patient with multiple sclerosis (MS) led us to examine the incidence of this organism in the CSF from 17 patients with relapsing-remitting MS, 20 patients with progressive MS, and 27 patients with other neurological diseases (OND). CSF samples were examined for C pneumoniae by culture, polymerase chain reaction assays, and CSF immunoglobulin (Ig) reactivity with C pneumoniae elementary body antigens. C pneumoniae was isolated from CSF in 64% of MS patients versus 11% of OND controls. Polymerase chain reaction assays demonstrated the presence of C pneumoniae MOMP gene in the CSF of 97% of MS patients versus 18% of OND controls. Finally, 86% of MS patients had increased CSF antibodies to C pneumoniae elementary body antigens as shown by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay absorbance values that were 3 SD greater than those seen in OND controls. The specificity of this antibody response was confirmed by western blot assays of the CSF, using elementary body antigens. Moreover, CSF isoelectric focusing followed by western blot assays revealed cationic antibodies against C pneumoniae. Infection of the central nervous system with C pneumoniae is a frequent occurrence in MS patients. Although the organism could represent the pathogenetic agent of MS, it may simply represent a secondary infection of damaged central nervous system tissue. A therapeutic trial directed at eliminating C pneumoniae from the central nervous system may provide additional information on its role in MS.