Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Schizophrenia Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Virus Provides a Clue to the Cause of Schizophrenia

continued...

"Many of us have become impressed with the realization that infectious agents can get in the central nervous system and sit there for 15 years before they can become active," another author E. Fuller Torrey, MD, tells WebMD. He is director of the Stanley Foundation Research Programs, which helped fund the study.

Both researchers are quick to point out that not all schizophrenia is caused by infection. "My feeling is that schizophrenia is a mixture of diseases, so it is extremely unlikely that either a virus or genes will explain all the cases," Yolken says. "We believe that perhaps 30% of cases may be related to infection."

But he says the findings suggest that doctors may someday be able to treat individuals who are at risk for schizophrenia -- based on their family history or early developmental signs -- with antiviral therapies to keep the retrovirus from becoming active.

Because herpes viruses are known to directly activate retroviruses, Yolken hopes to conduct studies using common antiherpes medications in acute patients to determine if they can improve symptoms of schizophrenia. If the drugs work, they could be used in at-risk patients to forestall retrovirus activation, and thereby prevent schizophrenia, he says.

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

What Happens Schizophrenia
Feature
Mental Health Psychotic Disorders
Feature
 
Caregiving Stress
Video
Schizophrenia What Increases Your Risk
Feature
 
10 Questions to Ask Doctor About Schizophrenia
Feature
Recognizing Suicidal Behavior
Feature
 
Phobias
Slideshow
Bipolar or Schizophrenia
Video
 
Pets Improve Your Health
Slideshow
69X75_Depression.jpg
Slideshow
 
Schizophrenia Medications
Article
Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
Slideshow
 

WebMD Special Sections