Are There Bacteria in the Brain?

Bacterial flora is common in many human body systems, such as the digestive system. This fact can make you wonder if there are bacteria in the brain.
Are There Bacteria in the Brain?

Last update: 17 September, 2021

Bacteria are essential, as they allow your body to perform many functions. They can be found in many areas: from the mouth to the genitals, the digestive tract, and the skin. But are there bacteria in the brain?

Microbial flora

Before we get into this, we need to explain the concept of microbial flora. What is it? What does it consist of? Where’s it found?

The flora or microbiota is composed of a series of microorganisms that are located in many different places in the bodies of multicellular organisms.

The components of the microbiota normally have a symbiotic relationship with the organism they inhabit. In other words, both benefit from each other.

The key to this issue is the word “normal”. A bacterium that causes a medical condition shouldn’t be part of the person’s typical flora. If that were the case, it wouldn’t cause a medical condition.

However, it’s possible for a common, uncontrolled bacterium to cause a disease. An atypical concentration would characterize said bacterium as abnormal at any given time.

Now that we explained the difference between normal and abnormal bacterial flora, let’s delve into the main topic of discussion.

Green bacteria on the skin.

This article may also interest you: World Meningitis Day: A Disease that Has a Vaccine

The presence of bacteria isn’t always positive

As bacteria inhabits important systems such as the digestive system in humans, it’s common to wonder if other systems, such as the nervous system, benefit from these microorganisms. The answer is a resounding no. In fact, a person who has bacteria in their brain is in serious danger.

Below, we’ll tell you all about a condition associated with the presence of these microorganisms in the nervous system, which is a perfect example of why they shouldn’t be there.

Acute bacterial meningitis

The brain, which consists of the cerebrum, cerebellum, and spinal bulb, has three layers of tissue called the meninges:

  • Dura mater, which is the outermost layer
  • Arachnoid, which is the middle layer
  • Pia mater, which is the inner layer

Between the arachnoid and the pia mater, there’s a subarachnoid the cerebrospinal fluid flows through. Acute bacterial meningitis is when certain bacteria infect the tissues and this fluid, causing severe swelling in the patient.

The immune system detects foreign microorganisms and sends antibodies to eradicate them, which is what causes general swelling.

According to the Merck Manuals, the symptoms of this disease manifest in several ways:

  • Older children and adults develop a stiff neck that makes lowering the chin to the chest difficult or impossible.
  • This characteristic symptom is accompanied by headaches and a high fever.
  • If the cranial nerves become inflamed due to the infection, the patient may experience double vision, deafness, and other problems.
  • But it’s not all bad news. Vaccines can reduce the risk of suffering from this disease. In addition, if it’s detected early, the use of antibiotics has a generally positive prognosis.
A person getting a meningitis vaccine.

How do bacteria get to the brain?

Bacteria can enter the brain in different ways, as is also stated in the Merck Manuals that we mentioned above:

  • The bacteria can spread from the bloodstream to the brain after multiplying successfully in any other organ.
  • Penetrating wounds to the head can also allow bacteria to enter the brain.
  • Brain or spinal cord surgery weakens these systems, also facilitating the entry of pathogens.
    As such, the risk factors are clear. The more exposed the organ, the easier it is for unwanted agents to penetrate it.

Bacteria in the brain: should we be alarmed?

Despite this, you shouldn’t be overly alarmed by these conditions. Generally, the most susceptible people are newborn babies or the elderly, since uncontrolled bacterial growth is often linked to weakened immune systems.

In addition, as we mentioned above, effective antibiotic treatments usually have a positive prognosis. Likewise, vaccines prevent the appearance of these conditions, especially in newborns.

Prevention and early diagnosis are key. If you believe that you have a bacterial infection, don’t hesitate to go see your doctor, as this will prevent uncontrolled growth in unwanted places.

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