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Cerebritis is an infection of the brain that normally leads to the formation of an abscess within the brain itself. It is the inflammation of the cerebrum, a structure within the brain, which performs a number of important functions, including most of the things which people associate with being human, such as memory and speech. It is also defined as a purulent nonencapsulated parenchymal infection of brain which is characterized by nonspecific features on CT (ill-defined low density area with peripheral enhancement) and cannot reliably be distinguished from neoplasms.[1]

Cerebritis usually occurs as a result of an underlying condition, which causes the inflammation of the brain tissue. It is commonly found in patients with lupus. Lupus cerebritis may occur in adults and children. The duration of the central nervous system involvement may vary from a few minutes, as in classic migraine or a transient ischemic attack, to years, as in dementia. Resulting neurological deficits may be transient or permanent, occasionally resulting in death.[2]


The symptoms of cerebritis may range from mild to severe.[3]

The severity of the symptoms varies based on the degree of swelling and on how elevated is the intracranial pressure. Mild symptoms include headaches, depression, anxiety and in some cases, memory loss. In some cases inflammation of brain can be seen if the brain or the nervous system is attacked as a result of problems with the immune system. The serious problems caused because of inflammation include headaches, seizures, vision problems, dizziness, behavior changes and even stroke.[4]

Severe lupus cerebritis symptoms include psychosis, dementia, peripheral neuropathy, cerebellar ataxia (failure of muscular coordination, usually on one side of the body), and chorea (jerky, involuntary movements). Stroke incidence is 3-20% in systemic lupus patients, and is highest in the first five years of the disease. Peripheral neuropathy (carpal tunnel syndrome, for example) occurs in more than 20% of systemic lupus patients and cranial nerve palsies occur in 10-15%.[5]


Lupus systemic erythematosus is one of the most common causes of cerebritis as it is believed that more than half of the patients with lupus from the United States suffer from a degree or another of lupus cerebritis.[6]

The exact pathophysiological process of lupus cerebritis is unknown. The proposed mechanisms are likely due to the assault of several autoimmune system changes, including the following:

  • Circulating immune complexes. The immune complexes, which consist of DNA and anti-DNA, cause an inflammatory response as well as a disruption of the blood–brain barrier. These circulating complexes have been found trapped in the highly vascular choroid plexus of SLE patients upon autopsy. True vasculitis, however, is found only in about 10% of patients with cerebral lupus.[7]
  • Anti-neuronal antibodies. The three identified anti-neuronal antibodies postulated in CNS involvement are the lympho-cytotoxic antibodies (LCAs), which somehow react with brain tissue and interfere with the neuron's ability to respond. LCAs have a specific role and are found in both the serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of lupus patients with cerebritis. These antibodies also correlate with cognitive and visual spatial defects. Second, the anti-neuronal membrane antibodies are targeted directly to neuronal antigens. They, too, are found in the serum of SLE patients with cerebritis. And third, the intracytoplasmic antibodies target the constituents of the neuron cells and they are found in the CSF and serum. These antibodies are seen in 90% of SLE patients with psychosis.[8]
  • Antiphospholipid antibodies. The two antibodies implicated are anticardiolipin and lupus anticoagulant. Anticardiolipin antibodies attach to the endothelial lining of cells, causing endothelial damage, platelet aggregation, inflammation, and fibrosis.[9]
  • Cytokine release. The final mechanism of lupus cerebritis involves the cytokines. The cytokines trigger edema, endothelial thickening, and infiltration of neutrophils in brain tissue. Two cytokines, interferon alpha and interleukin-6, have been found in the CSF of SLE patients with psychosis.[10]

However, it is not clear which mechanism is the actual cause of cerebritis in lupus patients. Specialists believe that all mechanisms may be present at the same time or they may act independently.

In very rare cases, cerebritis may occur as a result of a Klebsiella pneumoniae infection.[11]

One other reason to develop cerebritis is an infection caused by bacteria, viruses, or other organisms. Infections can occur when infectious agents enter the brain through the sinuses or as a result of trauma. Some pathogens are also capable of passing over the blood–brain barrier and entering the brain through the bloodstream, despite the fact that the body has evolved defenses which are specifically designed to prevent this.


Lupus is a condition with no known cure. Lupus cerebritis however is treated by suppressing the autoimmune activity.[12]

When it is caused by infections, treatment consists of medication that will primarily cure the infection. For inflammation, steroids can be used to bring down the swelling. If the swelling appears to have increased to a dangerous level, surgery may be needed to relieve pressure on the brain. The formation of an abscess also calls for surgery as it will be necessary to drain the abscess.


  1. ^ "Cerebritis (Brain)". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  2. ^ "Lupus cerebritis: a case study". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  3. ^ "Lupus Cerebritis". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  4. ^ "Lupus Cerebritis". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  5. ^ "Lupus". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  6. ^ "Cerebritis Symptoms and Treatment Alternatives". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  7. ^ "Mechanisms of CNS Involvement in SLE". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  8. ^ "Anti-neuronal Antibodies". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  9. ^ "Antiphospholipid Antibodies". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  10. ^ "Cytokine Release". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  11. ^ "Cerebritis: An unusual complication of Klebsiella pneumoniae". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 
  12. ^ "Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Treatment & Medication". Retrieved 2010-04-20. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebritis — Please support Wikipedia.
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54 news items

Taipei Times
Wed, 21 Oct 2015 09:04:13 -0700

... that serious infection can cause a fever that is hard to overcome, leading to increased liver GPT levels and splenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen), and that serious cases can even lead to hemophagocytic syndrome, cerebritis or wonderland syndrome.

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Sat, 04 Jul 2015 14:02:00 -0700

Q: I had the shingles vaccine at my GP surgery in May and was in excellent health beforehand. After a few days I became very unwell – it felt like flu, I had mouth ulcers and a very bad mouth blister. It took a good few weeks before I felt better ...
MedPage Today
Sun, 04 Oct 2015 12:01:29 -0700

Playing its trickery on my patients -- alveolar hemorrhage, cerebritis, hemolytic anemia, and lupus profundus. While my patients and I complain it's just not fair -- no flags were thrown and we just had to power through. And we did. Polymyalgia ...

Medical News Today

Medical News Today
Thu, 04 Jun 2015 00:08:02 -0700

Deep brain stimulation - the implantation of electrodes in specific brain areas to regulate abnormal impulses - is used to treat a number of movement disorders, though determining the exact target areas for the electrodes can prove tricky. Now ...

Food World News

Food World News
Sat, 14 Mar 2015 09:52:30 -0700

Listeriosis, a bacterial infection, will attack the central nervous system by causing different infections like meningitis, brain abscesses and cerebritis; it can become so serious that it can ultimately lead to death, as it happened to the three ...

Digital Journal

Digital Journal
Wed, 12 Aug 2015 12:37:36 -0700

The disease targets the central nervous system (regions such as the meningitis, meningoencephalitis, brain abscess, cerebritis) and can cause bacteremia, which is a particular risk to the immunocompromised, pregnant women and the very young or elderly.


Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:58:01 -0800

The bacterial infection affects the central nervous system, which then causes diseases such as meningitis, meningoencephalitis, brain abscess, and cerebritis. The current outbreak has been linked to three cases of invasive meningitis in healthy ...

Health Aim

Health Aim
Mon, 16 Mar 2015 03:30:00 -0700

The 2011 listeria outbreak was traced to a Colorado cantaloupe farm. Listeriosis is a bacterial infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes that causes infections of the central nervous system like meningitis, meningoencephalitis, brain abscess, and ...

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