Schizophrenia risk with flu exposure
Infants exposed to influenza in the womb during the first half of pregnancy appear to have an increased risk of schizophrenia.
The investigators found a three-fold increased risk of schizophrenia spectrum disorder for those exposed to influenza during the first half of pregnancy. The risk was even higher for those exposed during the first trimester.The antibodies elicited by the virus in the pregnant women can cross the placenta, disturb fetal brain development and increase vulnerability to schizophrenia. Other possible mechanisms include fever in the mother, use of over-the-counter medications or reduced oxygen levels in the fetus.The researchers suggest that up to 14 per cent of schizophrenia cases would not have occurred if influenza exposure during early to mid-pregnancy had been prevented. Simply vaccinating women of reproductive age against influenza may reduce the rate of schizophrenia in the population.
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