Viral infections during the prenatal or early childhood periods are one of the environmental factors which might play an etiological role in psychoses. Several studies report higher antibody levels against viruses during pregnancy in blood of mothers of offspring with psychotic disorders, but the presence of such viruses has never been demonstrated.The goal of this study was to investigate the potential association between viral infections during pregnancy and progeny with psychotic disorders and, for this purpose, we performed a nested case-control study involving pregnant mothers of offspring with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with psychotic features (cases, N = 43) and pregnant women with healthy offspring (controls, N = 95). Since several potential viral candidates have been suggested in prior work, a broad-spectrum virus detection system was necessary.A metagenomic analysis performed with the virus discovery method VIDISCA-454 revealed only common blood-associated viruses in all cohorts. However, a significantly lower viral prevalence was detected in the group of cases and in the sub-population of pregnant mothers of offspring with schizophrenia (p < 0.05). Consistent with the existing inverse correlation between the level of these viruses and the immunocompetence of an individual, we hypothesized the presence of a higher immune activity during pregnancy in mothers whose offspring later develop a psychotic disorder as compared to controls.Combining our results with previously available literature data on antibody levels during the gestation period suggests that a more prominent maternal immune activity can be considered a risk factor for developing psychosis.

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Schizophrenia Research
Department of Neuroscience

Canuti, M, Buka, S, Jazaeri Farsani, S.M, Oude Munnink, B.B, Jebbink, M.F, van Beveren, N.J.M, … van der Hoek, L. (2015). Reduced maternal levels of common viruses during pregnancy predict offspring psychosis: Potential role of enhanced maternal immune activity?. Schizophrenia Research, 166(1-3), 248–254. doi:10.1016/j.schres.2015.04.037