June 08, 2004

The Role of Infections in Schizophrenia

New research is implicating infections as a possible risk factor for the development of schizophrenia. "Infections, at different times in life, seem to impose an increased risk of schizophrenia in some individuals" says neurovirologist Robert Yolken, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University. Even common infections like herpes or the flu may play some role.

Pre-natal infections seem to be particularly important. One study showed that the risk of developing schizophrenia tripled when moms were exposed to influenza during pregnancy; another found a 20% incidence in moms with rubella infection. High levels of interleukin-8 (an important chemical of the immune system which can be harbingers of infection) in expectant mothers also seemed to raise their risk of delivering children who would later develop schizophrenia.

This new research may not only help prevent new cases, but can also direct treatment for existing ones. Dr. Yolken indicates that preventing or suppressing the infection could help standard schizophrenia drugs work more effectively.

For the full article, visit HealthCentral.com


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