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Flu in pregnancy related to schizophrenia

Children born to women who contract the flu during pregnancy appear to have an increased risk for schizophrenia later in life.

Flu in pregnancy related to schizophrenia

Children born to women who contract the flu during pregnancy appear to have an increased risk for schizophrenia later in life. Researchers from the Columbia University in New York conducted a study and found that it provides the strongest evidence to date, linking prenatal influenza exposure with schizophrenia. Previous studies investigating this topic have either relied on maternal surveys to determine prenatal influenza exposure or have simply correlated an earlier influenza outbreak with schizophrenia risk in a defined population. In the present study, researchers stored maternal blood samples from 64 patients with schizophrenia and 125 subjects without the disease and tested them for antibodies to determine if flu exposure had occurred during pregnancy. First trimester exposure to influenza raised the risk of schizophrenia by sevenfold. Exposure at any time during the first half of pregnancy increased the risk threefold. The present study found that prenatal influenza exposure might account for about 14 percent of schizophrenia cases. The effect of flu during both middle and early pregnancy were observed in the current study, though in previous studies, the effect has largely been confined to the middle trimester. Exactly how prenatal influenza exposure may lead to schizophrenia is unclear, but it could involve direct effects of the virus or indirect effects involving chemicals that are released in response to the virus. The findings reinforce recommendations that women of childbearing age be vaccinated against influenza.
American Psychiatric Association,
May 2004
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