C-reactive protein levels increased in schizophrenia

Patients with schizophrenia have elevated levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) compared with mentally healthy individuals, US researchers report.

In a study of 295 patients with schizophrenia, 192 with bipolar disorder, and 228 controls without a psychiatric disorder, the team found that levels of high-sensitivity CRP were significantly increased in schizophrenia patients compared with controls, after accounting for age, gender, race, maternal education, smoking status, and body mass index.

There were no significant differences in high-sensitivity CRP levels between bipolar disorder patients and controls, after accounting for multiple variables.

"Our study adds to the growing body of literature indicating that schizophrenia is associated with immune activation and elevated CRP," comment Faith Dickerson (Sheppard Pratt, Baltimore, Maryland) and colleagues in Schizophrenia Research.

They add that "the underlying mechanisms linking elevated CRP and schizophrenia are not known with certainty," but suggest that both genetic and environmental factors, such as polymorphisms within genomic regions associated with immune response and increased exposure to infectious agents, may play a role.

All of the participants were aged 18-65 years and did not have a history of substance abuse or medical disorders likely to affect cognitive performance, such as epilepsy, HIV, encephalitis, or head trauma.

In schizophrenia patients, the odds ratios for high-sensitivity CRP levels above the 75th and 90th percentile levels of those in controls were 1.79 and 2.76, respectively, after adjustment for the above mentioned covariates.

The odds ratios for elevated CRP in bipolar disorder patients were not significantly increased.

"Increased levels of CRP have been associated with a number of adverse health consequences including increased rates of cardiac disease and sudden death," explain Dickerson et al.

They conclude: "Our studies identify individuals with schizophrenia as being at risk for these complications and support trials of interventions directed at lowering the level of CRP and other inflammatory markers."

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