Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Psychosis linked to antibodies

Could schizophrenia be a treatable
physical illness? That was the intriguing
possibility raised by a study published in
December, which tested 228 patients
admitted to hospital from psychotic
disorders, and found evidence that almost
one in ten (9%) had an autoimmune
disorder that may have caused antibodies
in their blood to attack their brains. The
researchers theorise that the antibodies
stick to cell receptors in the brain, causing
the hallucinations, delusions and paranoia
that go hand in hand with psychosis. This
raises the hope that it might be possible in
some cases to “cure” psychotic disorders
with drugs that suppress the immune
system. However, the findings were by no
means conclusive: notably, researchers also
found that 4% of healthy volunteers in a
control group had the same antibodies;
and their study did not establish that it
was the immune disorder that caused the
psychosis. Even so, the team, from the
University of Oxford, recommend that
patients who present with symptoms of
psychosis be tested for the antibodies, as
part of their overall diagnosis.

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