American and Finnish researchers conducted a case-control analysis of data from the Finnish Prenatal Study of Schizophrenia, a large, national birth cohort with an extensive serum biobank. They tested for the presence of C-reactive protein in the maternal sera of 777 offspring with schizophrenia and compared the findings with those from 777 control subjects. Maternal C-reactive protein levels were assessed using a latex immunoassay from archived maternal serum specimens.
They found that increasing maternal C-reactive protein levels were significantly associated with development of schizophrenia in offspring. This finding remained significant after adjusting for potential confounders such as parental history of psychiatric disorders, twin/singleton birth, urbanicity, province of birth, and maternal socioeconomic status.
“This is the first time that this association has been demonstrated, indicating that an infection or increased inflammation during pregnancy could increase the risk of schizophrenia in the offspring,” lead author Alan Brown, M.D. (shown in photo above), a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University, told Psychiatric News. “Inflammation has been shown to alter brain development in previous studies, and schizophrenia is a neurodevelopmental disorder,” he noted. “Thus, this study provides an important link between inflammation and schizophrenia and may help us to better understand the biological mechanisms that lead to this disorder.... To the extent that the increased inflammation is due to infection, this work may suggest that approaches aimed at preventing infection may have the potential to reduce risk of schizophrenia.”
To read more about research on potential schizophrenia risk factors, see the Psychiatric News article, "Link Found Between Childhood Infections, Later Psychosis."