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Molecular Neurobiology - Special Issue Exploring the molecular mechanisms of infectious microbes and microbiota in chronic neurologic and psychiatric diseases

Guest Edited by Brian J. Balin and Nikki M. Schultek

The most prevalent driver of inflammation in the human body is infection, however microbes’ role in chronic neuro-inflammation is a decades-old yet controversial topic gaining new traction, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of neurologic and psychiatric diseases involve neuro-inflammation, and numerous infectious microbes are capable of entering the brain proper and inducing this state. Microbes that do not directly invade the brain such as those in the gut, can also indirectly induce inflammation through multiple mechanisms. Various brain diseases ranging from Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Frontotemporal Dementia, Multiple Sclerosis, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Depression, Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Schizophrenia (among others) have been associated with microbial infection or microbiome perturbations, but a causal role remains elusive. 

The range of microbes associated with chronic neuro-inflammatory and psychiatric diseases is diverse. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites have all been linked to neurologic and/or psychiatric diseases by epidemiological studies, retrospective evaluations, post-mortem analyses, and through cellular and animal modeling. SARS-CoV2 has joined this list of microbes, resulting in varied neurologic and psychiatric presentations of chronicity in vulnerable patients. Emerging research documents Alzheimer’s-like pathology (amyloid-beta deposition), brain shrinkage, and at times, detection of viable, live virus in post-mortem brain tissues of patients who died from COVID-19. 

In this special issue, Guest Edited by Brian J. Balin and Nikki M. Schultek, we invite the scientific community to submit original research papers, reviews, meta-analyses, etc pertaining to the molecular mechanisms of neurologic and psychiatric diseases with emphasis on infectious microbes (the pathobiota) and/or the alterations to the microbiota that may lead to these disease states.