Possible Link Between Parasite and Schizophrenia
> 6/18/2007 3:37:18 PM

Making a diagnosis of schizophrenia can be very difficult. There is no definitive laboratory test and little agreement on the root cause of the dibilitating disorder. Now, two new studies in the journal Biological Psychiatry have posited a very specific and controversial cause that could help unravel the mystery by examining the suspicious parasite toxoplasma gondii.

The first study took advantage of Denmark’s national neonatal screening biobank to test whether the presence of gondii in pregnant mother’s could predict the later development of schizophrenia. There was a significant correlation between parasite and schizophrenia even when adjusting for genetic and environmental factors like family history and place of birth.

The second study took a more focused approach by looking at 105 people suspected of being at ultra-high-risk for manifesting schizophrenia. Many different parasites were tested for, but only gondii and Epstein-Barr had a correlation with psychosis. Interestingly, those subjects with high levels of gondii antibodies displayed the most severe schizophrenic symptoms while Epstein-Barr antibodies seemed to mitigate the problem.

This new evidence demonstrates that no matter how unlikely it may seem, we have to further investigate the potential link between parasites and schizophrenia. Even if gondii is not the cause of schizophrenia, the results of the multi-parasite study suggest an intriguing possibility: Gondii may amplify the symptoms of a minor genetic problem to the point where it is finally diagnosed. More study needs to be done on the interaction between parasites and human behavior. Over 60 million Americans are currently infected, most commonly from their cats, so a full understanding of the risks is crucial.

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