2019 Jan 19;16(1):13. doi: 10.1186/s12974-019-1405-8.

Cerebrospinal fluid CXLC13 indicates disease course in neuroinfection: an observational study



The chemokine CXCL13 is an intensively investigated biomarker in Lyme neuroborreliosis (LNB). Its role in other neuroinfections is increasingly recognized but less clear.


To determine the significance of CXCL13 in established central nervous system (CNS) infections other than LNB by matching cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) CXCL13 elevations with severity of the disease course.


We investigated 26 patients with bacterial (n = 10) and viral (n = 16; tick-borne encephalitis, n = 6; varicella zoster infection, n = 10) neuroinfections of whom CSF CXCL13 levels were available twice, from lumbar punctures (LP) performed at admission and follow-up. As outcome classification, we dichotomized disease courses into “uncomplicated” (meningitis, monoradiculitis) and “complicated” (signs of CNS parenchymal involvement such as encephalitis, myelitis, abscesses, or vasculitis). CXCL13 elevations above 250 pg/ml were classified as highly elevated.


Eight of 26 patients (31%) with both bacterial (n = 4) and viral (n = 4) neuroinfections had a complicated disease course. All of them but only 3/18 patients (17%) with an uncomplicated disease course had CSF CXCL13 elevations > 250 pg/ml at the follow-up LP (p < 0.001). At admission, 4/8 patients (50%) with a complicated disease course and 3/18 patients (17%) with an uncomplicated disease course showed CXCL13 elevations > 250 pg/ml. All four patients with a complicated disease course but only one with an uncomplicated disease course had sustained CXCL13 elevations at follow-up. Patient groups did not differ with regard to age, time since symptom onset, LP intervals, type of infections, and anti-pathogen treatments.


Our study revealed pronounced CXCL13 elevations in CSF of patients with severe disease courses of bacterial and viral neuroinfections. This observation indicates a role of CXCL13 in the CNS immune defense and points at an additional diagnostic value as biomarker for unresolved immune processes leading to or associated with complications.