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Birth Complications Influence Schizophrenia among Some Genotypes

Birth Complications Influence Schizophrenia among Some Genotypes

New research discovers low birth weight and preterm birth appear to increase the risk of schizophrenia among individuals with a specific genetic condition.

Researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) discovered the genetic condition called the 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, increases the risk of schizophrenia when the birth conditions occur.

The research, published in Genetics in Medicine, is “…part of ongoing efforts among schizophrenia researchers to predict and prevent illness at the earliest stages possible,” says senior author Dr. Anne Bassett.

“Low birth weight and preterm birth have been proposed as risk factors in schizophrenia in general, but past studies have not shown a large effect on risk,” says Dr. Bassett, who is also the Director of the Clinical Genetics Research Program at CAMH.

“We’ve focused our lens on these risks in a small population with a specific genetic subtype of schizophrenia, where the connection between birth factors and risk of developing schizophrenia is noticeably stronger.”

The risk of schizophrenia is known to be high in individuals with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, as about one in four develops schizophrenia. This study found the risk was even higher — nearly one in two — among those who were born with a low birth weight or prematurely, based on standard measures.

The syndrome is caused by a small deletion on chromosome 22. It can lead to heart or palate abnormalities, developmental delays, and other physical health problems, and in one in four cases, a schizophrenia diagnosis in late adolescence or early adulthood.

The research, led by medical student and first author Lily Van, included 123 adults with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. After completing genetic tests to confirm this deletion, the researchers did a comprehensive review of participants’ medical records to capture details on birth weight and prematurity and through development. Psychiatrists on the study team also assessed all participants for the presence of major psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia.

In total, 51 patients were diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. The risk of developing schizophrenia, based on birth factors, was compared against those who did not have schizophrenia.

In addition, researchers ruled out other factors, besides the genetic deletion in the baby, that could lead to prematurity or low birth weight, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, smoking, and substance use.

“The results needs to be replicated, but do have important clinical implications,” says Dr. Bassett.

For instance, there are now prenatal tests that can signal the possibility of a 22q11.2 deletion as early as the first trimester of pregnancy. While such screening requires further confirmation through additional testing, it raises the idea of intervening, in cases where the deletion exists, during pregnancy or immediately after birth.

“The big-picture question is whether there is a way to support the developing fetal brain to improve outcomes, and lower the risk of schizophrenia,” says Dr. Bassett.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
 
Concerned mother with her newborn photo by shutterstock.

Birth Complications Influence Schizophrenia among Some Genotypes

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Birth Complications Influence Schizophrenia among Some Genotypes. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/08/14/birth-complications-influence-schizophrenia-among-some-genotypes/90854.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.