Epidemiological studies have shown a strong association between perinatal infection/inflammation and brain damage in preterm infants and/or neurological handicap in survivors. Experimental studies have shown a causal effect of infection/inflammation on perinatal brain damage. Infection including inflammatory factors can disrupt programmes of brain development and, in particular, induce death and/or blockade of oligodendrocyte maturation, leading to myelin defects. Alternatively, in the so-called multiple-hit hypothesis, infection/inflammation can act as predisposing factors, making the brain more susceptible to a second stress (sensitization process), such as hypoxic–ischaemic or excitotoxic insults. Epidemiological data also suggest that perinatal exposure to inflammatory factors could predispose to long-term diseases including psychiatric disorders.

You do not currently have access to this content.