After conducting an extensively comprehensive study, researchers at the George Washington University have demonstrated a possible association between microbes (bacteria, fungi and viruses) in the human throat and schizophrenia. This newly discovered link could offer ways to identify potential causes of the disease and develop novel treatments and diagnostic tests.
Schizophrenia And Microbes
Schizophrenia is a severe, chronic disabling disease of the brain. It is a psychiatric condition in which people may hear voices, experience hallucinations, believe they are psychic, and become paranoid. The illness makes them socially withdrawn or highly agitated.
According to previous studies, microbiomes (communities of microbes residing within our body) influence the immune system and subsequent mental health. While studies linking schizophrenia with immune disorders have already been published, this study assesses the possibility that discrepancies in oral populations might be associated with the disease.
Lead author Eduardo Castro-Nallar, a Ph.D. candidate at GW’s Computational Biology Institute (CBI) aimed at identify microbes linked with schizophrenia, along with components associated with or contributing to differences in immune status. The researchers found a significant difference in the microbial populations of schizophrenic and healthy individuals.
Castro-Nallar said that the oropharynx of schizophrenic patients appeared to accommodate different communities of oral bacteria as compared to healthy individuals. More specifically, their analysis revealed a significant link between microbes, such as lactic-acid bacteria and schizophrenia.
“Our results require replication and expansion to a broader number of individuals for further validation”, explained contributing author Keith Crandall, Director of the CBI. “Nevertheless, these results are quite intriguing and suggest prospective applications of biomarkers for diagnosing schizophrenia and important metabolic pathways associated with the psychiatric disease”.
Researchers claim that with additional investigations they may be able to determine, whether microbiome alterations contribute to schizophrenia, are due to schizophrenia, or do not have a connection with the disease altogether.