The proteome of pus from human brain abscesses: host-derived neurotoxic proteins and the cell-type diversity of CNS pus

  • Bjørnar Hassel, Gustavo Antonio De Souza, Maria Ekman Stensland, Jugoslav Ivanovic, Øyvind Voie, Daniel Dahlberg
  • Journal of Neurosurgery, September 2018, Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group (JNSPG)
  • DOI: 10.3171/2017.4.jns17284

Why do bacterial or fungal infections in the brain cause so much damage?

What is it about?

A brain infection with bacteria or fungi may damage the brain tissue, leaving a pus-filled cavity that is called an abscess. The abscess is usually much bigger than the area that is occupied by bacteria. We wanted to undestand why so much brain tissue is damaged in a brain infection and analyzed pus from brain abscesses from human patients. We found that proteins that come from the white blood cells that invade the infected brain were present at high concentration in the pus. Some of these proteins are known to be toxic to brain cells. We also found proteins that are specific for certain cell types and could thereby infer which cells take part in pus formation in the brain. These cells included white blood cells (neutrophiles, eosinophiles, macrophages, mast cells), platelets, fibroblasts, and red blood cells.

Why is it important?

The study is important because it shows that brain infections cause damage to brain tissue through proteins that are released by white blood cells. These proteins are present even after antibiotic treatment has begun. Therefore it is important to drain brain abscesses as soon as they are diagnosed in order to stop the damage that these proteins cause. From a scientific point of view this study is important, because it is the first description of the protein content of pus from brain abcsesses from human patients.


Bjørnar Hassel
Universitetet i Oslo

I hope this study alerts doctors to the need of draining brain abscesses rapidly, so that the destructive process of brain infections that cause pus formation may be limited. The technique we used (proteomics analysis) taught us a lot about the complexity of a (brain) infection.

Read Publication

The following have contributed to this page: Bjørnar Hassel

In partnership with: