Specific antibody patterns predict schizophrenia risk

By Joanna Lyford, Senior medwireNews Reporter

The presence of antibodies to multiple foods and infectious agents is a risk marker for new-onset schizophrenia, a case-control study suggests.

The research was conducted using 855 serum samples from US military service personnel who were discharged with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, together with samples from 1165 healthy serving military personnel matched for age and gender.

Based on biologic plausibility and previously reported associations, the samples were tested for antibodies to four neurotropic infectious agents (cytomegalovirus [CMV], human herpesvirus 6 [HHV-6], measles virus, and vaccinia virus), an apicomplexan protozoa (Toxoplasma gondii), and two food antigens (casein and gliadin).

Of the seven antigens tested, only CMV immunoglobulin G antibody levels significantly correlated with risk for schizophrenia, with an adjusted hazard ratio of 0.90.

Certain combinations of antigens were associated with schizophrenia risk, however. For instance, people with a 2-standard-deviation (SD) increase in antibodies to casein, CMV, T. gondii, and vaccinia had a 34% increased risk for schizophrenia, while those with a 2-SD increase in antibodies to casein, measles, CMV, and vaccinia had a 30% increased risk.

Writing in Schizophrenia Research, Natalya Weber (Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA) and co-authors say that the findings reinforce the notion that the etiology and pathogenesis of schizophrenia are complex and influenced by multiple environmental and genetic factors.

“Our results are consistent with the growing body of literature indicating that schizophrenia is likely to involve multiple etiologies and biological pathways,” they write, adding: “The importance of performing longitudinal investigations of biologically relevant markers in complex brain disorders such as schizophrenia is hard to overestimate.”

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