May 11, 2006

Prenatal Exposure to Maternal Infections increase Child's Risk of Schizophrenia

This week a new study came out in The American Journal of Psychiatry that adds to the body of evidence that indicates that certain negative female health factors during conception and early pregnancy (the prenatal period) result in increased risk for the child of schizophrenia later in life.

In this new study the authors examined the relation between a mother's exposure to maternal genital / reproductive infections during the period from before conception to early pregnancy, and schizophrenia in offspring, and followed 7,794 offspring of pregnancies with prospectively acquired data on maternal genital / reproductive infections from obstetric records.

RESULTS: A mother's exposure to genital/reproductive infections during the period from before conception to early pregnancy was associated with a significantly increased (approximately 500% greater) risk of schizophrenia and other schizophrenia spectrum disorders, with adjustment for maternal race, education, age, and mental illness.

CONCLUSIONS: Maternal genital/reproductive infection during conception and early pregnancy appears to increase the risk of schizophrenia in offspring.

Study: Prenatal Exposure to Maternal Genital and Reproductive Infections and Adult Schizophrenia

For more information on this topic - see Prenatal factors linked to increased risk of schizophrenia

Independent of this study reported on above, another journal article that was published in February, 2006 on the topic of "Prenatal infection as a risk factor for schizophrenia" came to the following conclusion:

"Accumulating evidence suggests that prenatal exposure to infection contributes to the causal factors [etiology] of schizophrenia.

This line of investigation has been advanced by birth cohort studies that utilize prospectively acquired data from serologic assays for infectious and immune biomarkers. These investigations have provided further support for this hypothesis and permitted the investigation of new infectious pathogens in relation to schizophrenia risk.

Prenatal infections that have been associated with schizophrenia include rubella, influenza, and toxoplasmosis. Maternal cytokines, including interleukin-8, are also significantly increased in pregnancies giving rise to schizophrenia cases.

Although replication of these findings is required, this body of work may ultimately have important implications for the prevention of schizophrenia, the elaboration of pathogenic mechanisms in this disorder, and investigations of gene-environment interactions.


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