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BackgroundCellular metabolism is critical for the host immune function against pathogens, and metabolomic analysis may help understand the characteristic immunopathology of tuberculosis. We performed targeted metabolomic analyses in a large cohort of patients with tuberculous meningitis (TBM), the most severe manifestation of tuberculosis, focusing on tryptophan metabolism.MethodsWe studied 1069 Indonesian and Vietnamese adults with TBM (26.6% HIV-positive), 54 non-infectious controls, 50 with bacterial meningitis, and 60 with cryptococcal meningitis. Tryptophan and downstream metabolites were measured in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma using targeted liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Individual metabolite levels were associated with survival, clinical parameters, CSF bacterial load and 92 CSF inflammatory proteins.ResultsCSF tryptophan was associated with 60-day mortality from TBM (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.16, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.10-1.24, for each doubling in CSF tryptophan) both in HIV-negative and -positive patients. CSF tryptophan concentrations did not correlate with CSF bacterial load nor CSF inflammation but were negatively correlated with CSF interferon-gamma concentrations. Unlike tryptophan, CSF concentrations of an intercorrelating cluster of downstream kynurenine metabolites did not predict mortality. These CSF kynurenine metabolites did however correlate with CSF inflammation and markers of blood-CSF leakage, and plasma kynurenine predicted death (HR 1.54, 95% CI = 1.22-1.93). These findings were mostly specific for TBM, although high CSF tryptophan was also associated with mortality from cryptococcal meningitis.ConclusionsTBM patients with a high baseline CSF tryptophan or high systemic (plasma) kynurenine are at increased risk of death. These findings may reveal new targets for host-directed therapy.FundingThis study was supported by National Institutes of Health (R01AI145781) and the Wellcome Trust (110179/Z/15/Z and 206724/Z/17/Z).

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Research Center for Care and Control of Infectious Diseases, Universitas Padjadjaran, Bandung, Indonesia.


Humans, Tuberculosis, Meningeal, Meningitis, Cryptococcal, HIV Infections, Inflammation, Tryptophan, Kynurenine, Adult