Chlamydia pneumoniae can infect the central nervous system via the olfactory and trigeminal nerves and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease risk

Chlamydia pneumoniae is a respiratory tract pathogen but can also infect the central nervous system (CNS). Recently, the link between C. pneumoniae CNS infection and late-onset dementia has become increasingly evident. In mice, CNS infection has been shown to occur weeks to months after intranasal inoculation. By isolating live C. pneumoniae from tissues and using immunohistochemistry, we show that C. pneumoniae can infect the olfactory and trigeminal nerves, olfactory bulb and brain within 72 h in mice. C. pneumoniae infection also resulted in dysregulation of key pathways involved in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis at 7 and 28 days after inoculation. Interestingly, amyloid beta accumulations were also detected adjacent to the C. pneumoniae inclusions in the olfactory system. Furthermore, injury to the nasal epithelium resulted in increased peripheral nerve and olfactory bulb infection, but did not alter general CNS infection. In vitro, C. pneumoniae was able to infect peripheral nerve and CNS glia. In summary, the nerves extending between the nasal cavity and the brain constitute invasion paths by which C. pneumoniae can rapidly invade the CNS likely by surviving in glia and leading to Aβ deposition.