Schizophrenia remains poorly understood, but is almost certainly an umbrella term covering a range of conditions with a number of common symptoms. One possible cause has been identified in the 10 April Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Håkan Karlsson and colleagues compared cerebrospinal fluid taken from 35 people diagnosed with schizophrenia to that taken from 12 people who were healthy or who had a condition other than schizophrenia. Using molecular markers, they found that 29% of people with acute schizophrenia and 7% of those with a chronic form of the disease showed the 'footprint' of a retrovirus from the 'W' family of endogenous retroviruses (HERV-W). The footprint was undetectable in people who did not have schizophrenia.

Robert Yolken, from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, US, and one of the authors said, "While a low level of retrovirus expression occurs in most humans, we found an unexpectedly...

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