Minocycline prevents cerebral malaria, confers neuroprotection and increases survivability of mice duringPlasmodium berghei ANKAinfection

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Cerebral malaria (CM) is a neurological complication arising due to Plasmodium falciparum or Plasmodium vivax infection. Minocycline, a semi-synthetic tetracycline, has been earlier reported to have a neuroprotective role in several neurodegenerative diseases. In this study, we investigated the effect of minocycline treatment on the survivability of mice during experimental cerebral malaria (ECM). The currently accepted mouse model, C57BL/6 mice infected with Plasmodium berghei ANKA, was used for the study. Infected mice were treated with an intra-peritoneal dose of minocycline hydrochloride, 45 mg/kg daily for ten days that led to parasite clearance in blood, brain, liver and spleen on 7th day post-infection; and the mice survived until experiment ended (90 days) without parasite recrudescence. Evans blue extravasation assay showed that blood-brain barrier integrity was maintained by minocycline. The tumor necrosis factor-alpha protein level and caspase activity, which is related to CM pathogenesis, was significantly reduced in the minocycline-treated group. Fluoro-Jade® C and hematoxylin-eosin staining of the brains of minocycline group revealed a decrease in degenerating neurons and absence of hemorrhages respectively. Minocycline treatment led to decrease in gene expressions of inflammatory mediators like interferon-gamma, CXCL10, CCL5, CCL2; receptors CXCR3 and CCR2; and hence decrease in T-cell-mediated cerebral inflammation. We also proved that this reduction in gene expressions is irrespective of the anti-parasitic property of minocycline. The distinct ability of minocycline to modulate gene expressions of CXCL10 and CXCR3 makes it effective than doxycycline, a tetracycline used as chemoprophylaxis. Our study shows that minocycline is highly effective in conferring neuroprotection during ECM.

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