Much previous epidemiological research has indicated an association between a pregnant woman’s exposure to influenza and eventual development of schizophrenia.
Now a study suggests that having the flu during pregnancy may also influence the likelihood of bipolar disorder among adult offspring.
Researchers drew on blood samples drawn from pregnant women in the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Plan from 1959 through 1966
“We found a significant, nearly 4-fold increase in the risk of bipolar disorder after exposure to maternal influenza at any time during pregnancy,” wrote Alan Brown, M.D., M.P.H., of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and colleagues, online May 8 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
The study controlled for the mother’s psychiatric disorders but previous work has shown an increased susceptibility to influenza among mothers with such disorders, said Brown.
“[T]his association may also provide a basis for further exploration of interactions between influenza and genetic susceptibility in bipolar disorder and other psychiatric disorders,” he said.
The study’s findings must be confirmed in other groups before any treatment recommendations (like preventive measures for pregnant women) can be suggested, said Brown, et al.
For more in Psychiatric News about maternal infection and mental illness, click here.