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Are some cases of psychosis caused by microbial agents? A review of the evidence

Abstract

The infectious theory of psychosis, prominent early in the twentieth century, has recently received renewed scientific support. Evidence has accumulated that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are complex diseases in which many predisposing genes interact with one or more environmental agents to cause symptoms. The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii and cytomegalovirus are discussed as examples of infectious agents that have been linked to schizophrenia and in which genes and infectious agents interact. Such infections may occur early in life and are thus consistent with neurodevelopmental as well as genetic theories of psychosis. The outstanding questions regarding infectious theories concern timing and causality. Attempts are underway to address the former by examining sera of individuals prior to the onset of illness and to address the latter by using antiinfective medications to treat individuals with psychosis. The identification of infectious agents associated with the etiopathogenesis of schizophrenia might lead to new methods for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of this disorder.

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Yolken, R., Torrey, E. Are some cases of psychosis caused by microbial agents? A review of the evidence. Mol Psychiatry 13, 470–479 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1038/mp.2008.5

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Keywords

  • cytomegalovirus
  • toxoplasmosis
  • infectious
  • schizophrenia
  • genetic
  • environmental

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