Researchers have discovered a potential link between microbes (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) in the throat and schizophrenia, according to a new comprehensive study at George Washington University.
The findings show that people with schizophrenia harbor different proportions of oral bacteria than those without the disease.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder, characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thought. It is a relapsing and remitting condition often controlled with medication. The disease affects approximately one in 100 people.
Recently, there has been a strong, growing body of research demonstrating that micro biomes — the communities of microbes living within our bodies — can affect the immune system and may be connected to our mental health.
Research linking immune disorders and schizophrenia has also been published, and this new study furthers the possibility that changes in oral communities are associated with schizophrenia.
“The oropharynx of schizophrenics seems to harbor different proportions of oral bacteria than healthy individuals,” said Eduardo Castro-Nallar, a Ph.D. candidate at George Washington University’s Computational Biology Institute (CBI) and lead author of the study.
“Specifically, our analyses revealed an association between microbes such as lactic-acid bacteria and schizophrenics.”
The researchers conducted the study to try to identify any potential microbes associated with schizophrenia, as well as components that may be linked to or contribute to changes in the immune state of the person. Their findings showed a distinct difference between the microbiomes of healthy people and schizophrenic patients.
As of now, it is too soon to tell what the connection is between the throat microbiome and schizophrenia. But with additional studies, researchers may be able to determine if the microbiome changes are a contributing factor to schizophrenia, are a result of schizophrenia or do not have a connection to the disorder.
Once established, the information may help identify potential contributing factors to schizophrenia and offer a way to identify causes of the disease, lead to diagnostic tests and develop new types of treatments.
“Our results suggesting a link between microbiome diversity and schizophrenia require replication and expansion to a broader number of individuals for further validation,” said Dr. Keith Crandall, director of the CBI and contributing author of the study.
“But the results are quite intriguing and suggest potential applications of biomarkers for diagnosis of schizophrenia and important metabolic pathways associated with the disease.”
Source: George Washington University