Clinical and Research News
Can Infection-Related Schizophrenia be Prevented?
Psychiatric News
Volume 45 Number 6 page 19-19

The identification of T. gondii and other infectious agents as possible factors in schizophrenia has implications for prevention and treatment.

In their review of studies in AJP in Advance on infectious agents including T. gondii and the development of schizophrenia, Alan Brown, M.D., and colleagues noted that "many genital/reproductive system microbes are readily eliminated by antibiotics. Hence, increased surveillance and treatment of the reproductive-age population for these infections may have the potential to reduce the risk of schizophrenia....

"Since acquisition of T. gondii can occur throughout the life course, it may be worth considering measures to reduce exposure to this infection in the general population as early as childhood as well as to investigate measures of screening for, and reducing levels of, T. gondii IgG in women of reproductive age, especially those who are planning a pregnancy," they wrote.

They proposed a new public health research agenda that includes the incorporation of prospectively documented, specific, and validly measured infectious exposures into molecular genetic studies of gene-environment interaction. They said that the adoption of translational approaches capitalizing on findings from epidemiologic research could help elucidate causal mechanisms by which neurodevelopment is altered by prenatal insults.

On a much more experimental basis, psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, M.D., and Johns Hopkins University virologist Robert Yolken, M.D., are conduting two treatment trials using Artemisinin, an antimalarial that may act against T. gondii, as an add-on medication for individuals with schizophrenia.

Torrey, a longtime proponent of an infectious etiology that still is considered dubious by some, believes more widespread acceptance of the theory awaits documentation that preventive efforts, including successful treatment of early infections, can lead to reduction in the occurrence of schizophrenia.

"It is so far removed from what has been the traditional way of thinking about this disease that people find it hard to wrap their minds around it," he told Psychiatric News. "When we can treat people and improve symptoms, that's when people will start to believe it."blacksquare

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