Multiple Antibodies Linked to Schizophrenia Development

SILVER SPRING, MD — With past research identifying an association between development of schizophrenia and antibodies to food or neurotropic infectious agents, a new study looked at the role of multiple agents in development of the serious mental illness.

Researchers from the Preventive Medicine Program at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research said they hoped the study would help shed light or agent interactions or possible etiopathogenic pathways. The report was published late last year in the journal Schizophrenia Research.1

The article noted that multiple studies have documented immune activation in many individuals with schizophrenia, suggesting that antigens capable of generating a prolonged immune response may be important environmental triggers.

For the study, researchers tested 6,106 serum samples from 855 cases and 1165 matched controls.

The study found that higher antibody levels to casein were borderline significant in the prediction of schizophrenia (HR=1.08, p=0.06). On the other hand, study participants with higher cytomegalovirus (CMV) IgG antibody levels had a reduced risk of developing schizophrenia (HR=0.90; p=0.02).

While IgG antibodies to gliadin, Toxoplasma gondii, vaccinia, measles, and human herpesvirus-6 (HHV-6) showed no significant independent associations with schizophrenia, according to the authors, the increase in antibody levels to several combinations of agents, to include casein, measles, CMV, T. gondii and vaccinia, was predictive of an 18-34% increase in the risk of developing schizophrenia.

“Certain patterns of antibodies, involving some agents, were predictive of developing schizophrenia, with the magnitude of association rising when the level of antibodies increased to two or more agents,” the authors wrote. “A heightened antibody response to a combination of several infectious/food antigens might be an indicator of an altered immune response to antigenic stimuli.”

1Li Y, Weber NS, Fisher JA, Yolken RH, Cowan DN, Larsen RA, Niebuhr DW. Association between antibodies to multiple infectious and food antigens and new onset schizophrenia among U.S. military personnel. Schizophr Res. 2013 Dec;151(1-3):36-42. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2013.10.004. Epub 2013 Oct 17. PubMed PMID: 24139899.

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