Microglia in infectious diseases of the central nervous system

Monica M. Mariani, Tammy Kielian

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Microglia are the resident macrophage population in the central nervous system (CNS) parenchyma and, as such, are poised to provide a first line of defense against invading pathogens. Microglia are endowed with a vast repertoire of pattern recognition receptors that include such family members as Toll-like receptors and phagocytic receptors, which collectively function to sense and eliminate microbes invading the CNS parenchyma. In addition, microglial activation elicits a broad range of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines that are involved in the recruitment and subsequent activation of peripheral immune cells infiltrating the infected CNS. Studies from several laboratories have demonstrated the ability of microglia to sense and respond to a wide variety of pathogens capable of colonizing the CNS including bacterial, viral, and fungal species. This review will highlight the role of microglia in microbial recognition and the resultant antipathogen response that ensues in an attempt to clear these infections. Implications as to whether microglial activation is uniformly beneficial to the CNS or in some circumstances may exacerbate pathology will also be discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-461
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Brain abscess
  • Cerebral malaria
  • Fungal infections
  • Lyme neuroborreliosis
  • Microglia
  • Review
  • Toxoplasma encephalitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology


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