Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier
WebMD

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine
WebMD

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion
    WebMD

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community
    WebMD

    Community

    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Schizophrenia Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Potential Biological Marker for Schizophrenia Identified

continued...

"This data is very provocative. It definitely indicates that there is a connection between retroviruses and the disease [schizophrenia]," Erik Lillehoj, PhD, tells WebMD. Lillehoj is director of research at Roveko Ltd., in Gaithersburg, MD. Lillehoj was not associated with Yee's investigations.

Interest in the association between viral infections and mental illness has grown in recent years. "There was some speculation by people decades ago that infectious agents were linked to serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder [manic depression]. That theory was not generally accepted. Now, there is evidence coming in from researchers from independent labs ... that there could be an association between viruses and these [mental illnesses]," Darrenn J. Hart, PhD, of Tulane University School of Medicine, tells WebMD in an interview seeking objective commentary. In his work, Hart has found evidence of antibodies against retrovirus in the blood of half of the patients he tested who were diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Are retrovirus infections the cause of schizophrenia? "We're not saying that all cases of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are caused by retroviruses, but it may be the case for a subpopulation of patients," Hart says.

The findings could have important implications for the diagnosis and management of schizophrenia, as well as understanding its cause. "This could mean that we will have new ways of diagnosing schizophrenia, possibly through a blood test. It could also affect drastically how people are treated. ... Perhaps someday people who fall into this category will be treated with antiviral drugs in addition to [antipsychotic] medications," Hart says. According to both Hart and Lillehoj, no studies of antiviral therapy for schizophrenia are currently underway.

Retrovirus infection could also help explain the familial occurrence of schizophrenia, Hart tells WebMD. "Retroviruses can be transmitted from parent to child. It's possible that this type [of schizophrenia] is transmitted genetically, and not so much by person-to-person contact."

Yolken is conservative about the clinical utility of what's known about retroviruses and schizophrenia at this time. He tells WebMD, "It's an evolving story. There's a lot we still don't know. Our long-term goal is to come up with some way of interfering with this activation and modulating it so that we come up with a new way of treating this disease."

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

69X75_Depression.jpg
Article
Mental Health Psychotic Disorders
Article
 
Schizophrenia Medications
Article
bored man resting chin on hands
Article
 
vincent van gogh
Article
paranoia
Slideshow
 
Schizophrenia What Increases Your Risk
Article
mother and daughter
Article
 
boy hiding under blanket
Article
male patient with doctor
Article
 
romantic couple
Article
businesswoman working at desk at night
Article