June 20, 2007

Some Cases of Schizophrenia May Be Linked to Active Response to Toxoplasma Gondii Infection

Much research has linked some cases of schizophrenia to genetic vulnerability combined with prenatal exposure to a one-celled parasitic organism called Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii).

New research published in Biological Psychiatry has looked at teens and young adults (average age of 19) deemed to be at ultra-high risk for developing schizophrenia, looking for correlations between severity of psychotic symptoms and possible infections of Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus Type 1, herpes simplex virus Type 2, and T. gondii.

The results were surprising. Having antibodies to the T. gondii parasite was significantly associated with more severe psychotic symptoms, while testing positive for Epstein-Barr antibodies was significantly associated with less severe ones. It is not known why the patients who tested positive for infection with Epstein-Barr virus had less severe symptoms than the patients who were negative.

The results showed, by measuring types of antibodies present (IgM and IgG), that the infections of T. gondii were not recently acquired. Only the IgG antibody levels were elevated which would reflect either an active or reactivated infection, rather than a newly acquired infection.

The scientists next hope to replicate the findings in more people.

They are also following the patients to determine if the infection with T. gondii in these individuals is involved in their transition to a full-blown case of schizophrenia.

The lead scientist, G. Paul Amminger, M.D., an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Melbourne (Australia) says that if it is determined that the infection with T. gondii in these ultra-high risk individuals causes the transition from subthreshold psychotic symptoms to the development full-blown schizophrenia, then, determining if antimicrobial drugs effective against T. gondii could prevent that transition, would be warranted.

Thanks to CopperKettle for directing us to this article.

Read the article: Does Parasite Play Role in Schizophrenia Etiology?
Original source abstract: Antibodies to Infectious Agents in Individuals at Ultra-High Risk for Psychosis

Related Reading:
Analysis of Schizophrenia Link to T. gondii Parasite

Toxoplasma Gondii ("Cat Parasite") Schizophrenia Link Studied


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