Cerebrospinal fluid in tuberculous meningitis exhibits only the L-enantiomer of lactic acid

Shayne Mason, Carolus J. Reinecke, Willem Kulik, Arno van Cruchten, Regan Solomons, A. Marceline Tutu van Furth

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The defining feature of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collected from infants and children with tuberculous meningitis (TBM), derived from an earlier untargeted nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) metabolomics study, was highly elevated lactic acid. Undetermined was the contribution from host response (L-lactic acid) or of microbial origin (D-lactic acid), which was set out to be determined in this study. In this follow-up study, we used targeted ultra-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-ESI-MS/MS) to determine the ratio of the L and D enantiomers of lactic acid in these CSF samples. Here we report for the first time that the lactic acid observed in the CSF of confirmed TBM cases was in the L-form and solely a response from the host to the infection, with no contribution from any bacteria. The significance of elevated lactic acid in TBM appears to be that it is a crucial energy substrate, used preferentially over glucose by microglia, and exhibits neuroprotective capabilities. These results provide experimental evidence to support our conceptual astrocyte-microglia lactate shuttle model formulated from our previous NMR-based metabolomics study - highlighting the fact that lactic acid plays an important role in neuroinflammatory diseases such as TBM. Furthermore, this study reinforces our belief that the determination of enantiomers of metabolites corresponding to infectious diseases is of critical importance in substantiating the clinical significance of disease markers
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jun 2016


  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
  • Enantiomers
  • L- and D-lactic acid
  • Tuberculous meningitis (TBM)
  • Ultra-performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-ESI-MS/MS)

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