Schizophrenics are at greater risk of getting diseases
But new research based on data sets covering the majority of the Danish population shows that the development goes both ways: People suffering from schizophrenia also have an increased risk of contracting autoimmune diseases, especially if they have suffered from a severe infection.
Head of the new study is
This month the results will be published in an article in the internationally renowned American journal
Three times higher risk
Drawing on data from the Danish Civil Registration, Danish hospitals and the nation-wide
By linking the data sets, the researchers found that a person suffering from schizophrenia has a 53 per cent higher risk of contracting an autoimmune disease compared to people who are not suffering from schizophrenia. Moreover, if you have schizophrenia and have been hospitalised or received treatment for a severe infection, you have a 2.7 times higher risk of getting an autoimmune disease.
"Six per cent of the schizophrenic patients have an autoimmune disease that requires treatment in a hospital. But the actual occurrence is significantly higher, seeing as our study does not incorporate all the people who are being treated by general physicians or have not been diagnosed yet. This means that psychiatrists should be on the lookout for signs of physical illness among their patients with schizophrenia, including autoimmune diseases," explains
Infections play a determining role
With the aid of these large data sets, the researchers have been able to show certain correlations with great statistical certainty, but the study does not provide a definitive explanation for why schizophrenics have such an increased risk of contracting these diseases.
"It could be that people with schizophrenia er genetically vulnerable to infections, which increases the risk of getting schizophrenia but also autoimmune diseases," he says and proceeds to explain that the human immune system can react to an infection by producing antibodies that do not merely react to the infection; the antibodies also start breaking down the body's own tissue. This is how autoimmune diseases develop.
Another possible explanation could be that neuropsychiatric symptoms diagnosed as schizophrenia are the first signs that an autoimmune disease has developed but has not yet been detected.
Other explanations are related to lifestyle and genetics. But here the research does not bring any clear results. In the study the researchers also examined whether family members of people with schizophrenia also have an increased risk of getting an autoimmune disease.
"If you have a family member with schizophrenia, there is a six per cent higher chance that you yourself will develop an autoimmune disease. The genetic factor does not look to be so significant, even though genetic studies have shown a correlation between genes and schizophrenia," says
The next step is for the researchers from the
By doing this they will hopefully get even closer to explaining the correlation between schizophrenia and autoimmune diseases.
Keywords for this news article include: Antibodies, Genetics, Treatment, Immunology, Psychiatric, Schizophrenia, Blood Proteins, Immunoglobulins,
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