Perinatal infections and the systemic inflammatory response to them are critical contributors to white matter disease (WMD) in the developing brain despite the use of highly active antibiotics. Fluoroquinolones including ciprofloxacin (CIP) have intrinsic anti-inflammatory effects. We hypothesized that CIP, in addition to its antibacterial activity, could exert a neuroprotective effect by modulating white matter inflammation in response to sepsis.


We adapted an Escherichia coli sepsis model to 5-day-old rat pups (P5), to induce white matter inflammation without bacterial meningitis. We then compared the ability of CIP to modulate inflammatory-induced brain damage compared with cefotaxime (CTX) (treatment of reference).


Compared with CTX, CIP was associated with reduced microglial activation and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression in the developing white matter in rat pups subjected to E. coli sepsis. In addition to reducing microglial activation, CIP was able to prevent myelination delay induced by E. coli sepsis and to promote oligodendroglial survival and maturation. We found that E. coli sepsis altered the transcription of the guidance molecules semaphorin 3A and 3F; CIP treatment was capable of reducing semaphorin 3A and 3F transcription levels to those seen in uninfected controls. Finally, in a noninfectious white matter inflammation model, CIP was associated with significantly reduced microglial activation and prevented WMD when compared to CTX.


These data strongly suggest that CIP exerts a beneficial effect in a model of E. coli sepsis-induced WMD in rat pups that is independent of its antibacterial activity but likely related to iNOS expression modulation. ANN NEUROL 2011