Novel study sheds light on influenza -schizophrenia link

June 10th, 2009 - 5:49 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 10 (ANI): Previous studies have found that influenza exposure in the womb is linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia. Now, a new study has suggested that this association depends upon a pre-existing vulnerability in the foetus.

Dr. Lauren Ellman and colleagues determined that foetal exposure to influenza leads to cognitive problems at age 7 among children who later develop a psychotic disorder in adulthood, but foetal exposure to influenza does not lead to cognitive problems among children who do not later develop a psychotic disorder.

The results were, however, dependent upon the type of influenza, with this association present only after foetal exposure to influenza B as opposed to influenza A.

For the study, the researchers followed pregnant women and their offspring in the 1950’s and 60’s, collecting blood throughout pregnancies for later analyses.

A series of cognitive assessments were conducted with the children of study participants and then psychotic diagnoses were determined in adulthood.

The findings from this study suggest that a genetic and/or an additional environmental factor associated with psychosis likely is necessary for the foetal brain to be vulnerable to the effects of influenza, given that decreases in cognitive performance were only observed in influenza-exposed children who developed a psychotic disorder in adulthood.

The study is published in the June 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry. (ANI)

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