The location of a gene which causes schizophrenia coupled with the control
of certain environmental factors may one day eliminate the illness, a leading
researcher said today.
Dr John McGrath, of the Centre for Schizophrenia Research at the University of Queensland, said schizophrenia had much in common with disorders like spina bifida and cerebral palsy."When we'll eliminate it I don't know," Dr McGrath said. "But I think simple public health measures can help prevent schizophrenia. I'm very optimistic." He said recent breakthroughs in gene mapping had located the general area of the gene or genes which researchers believe causes schizophrenia. "Once the genes are sorted out we can find out what some of the other factors are," Dr McGrath said. "So we have found the haystack, all we need is the needle."
Schizophrenia affects about one in 100 Australians.Studies have found that if a person has a mother or father with the illness their chances of getting it go up to about 12 per cent. If both parents suffer from schizophrenia their offsprings' chances of contracting the illness goes up to about 50 per cent. Symptoms begin appearing in the late teens and 20s and include hearing voices, having delusions, impaired communications and poor planning and motivation. "There is a very strong genetic element in schizophrenia but it's not just genetics, there are environmental factors as well," Dr McGrath told reporters at the Australian Society for Medical Research conference at the ANA Hotel here. "There is evidence to suggest that obstetric complications and prenatal exposure to the influenza virus may be risk factors for schizophrenia. "If we can identify the gene that puts people at risk then perhaps we can do something to prevent them developing schizophrenia," he said.
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