Thursday, September 12, 2013

Evidence Grows That Infection May Play Role in Schizophrenia Risk

Research has indicated that the presence of antibodies to influenza, toxoplasmosis, and other infectious agents in the blood of pregnant women is associated with increased risk of mental illness among their offspring. Now a new study in nonhuman primates finds that activating the maternal immune system leads to abnormal behavioral development in offspring.

Researchers treated pregnant rhesus monkeys with synthetic double-stranded RNA in the first or second trimesters and then studied their offspring for two years. Beginning at age 6 months, the young monkeys “exhibited abnormal responses to separation from their mothers,” compared with controls, said Melissa Bauman, Ph.D., of the M.I.N.D. Institute and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California, Davis, online September 5 in Biological Psychiatry. They displayed abnormal repetitive behaviors, decreased affiliative vocalizations, and species-inappropriate proximity to unfamiliar monkeys.

“These results extended the findings in rodent MIA models to more human-like behaviors resembling those in both autism and schizophrenia,” concluded Bauman and colleagues.

To read more about research on links between infection and mental illness, see the article, "Psychiatrist Hunts for Evidence of Infection Theory of Schizophrenia" in Psychiatric News.

(Image: Phloxii/


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.