The Infection Connection in Schizophrenia

Adapted from image by I.I. Gottesman ©2001  GENES AND MORE: The risks of developing schizophrenia over a lifetime to the relatives of schizophrenia sufferers accord with a largely genetic explanation. Yet with 48% concordance for identical twins, environmental factors may play a role. It's a scary thought that one could develop a debilitating mental illness such as schizophrenia as easily as catching a cold. Well, it's more complicated than that, say advocates of the so-called infec

Brendan Maher
Nov 2, 2003
Adapted from image by I.I. Gottesman ©2001
 GENES AND MORE: The risks of developing schizophrenia over a lifetime to the relatives of schizophrenia sufferers accord with a largely genetic explanation. Yet with 48% concordance for identical twins, environmental factors may play a role.

It's a scary thought that one could develop a debilitating mental illness such as schizophrenia as easily as catching a cold. Well, it's more complicated than that, say advocates of the so-called infectious hypothesis, which states that viral and possibly bacterial infections occurring at critical points in brain development could increase the risk of mental illness. Everything from influenza to herpes simplex viruses to Toxoplasma gondii has been implicated in elevating risk for schizophrenia, perhaps indirectly through immunological reactions that change brain chemistry or wiring at key developmental stages. Raised, ridiculed, retracted, and rewrought, the hypothesis has morphed for nearly a century.

Its current permutation may be...