Association Between Parental Hospital-Treated Infection and the Risk of Schizophrenia in Adolescence and Early Adulthood

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It has been suggested that infection during perinatal life may lie at the etiological root of schizophrenia. It has thus been hypothesized that the origin of schizophrenia may lie either in direct fetal infection and/or in a generally increased familial susceptibility to infections, some of which may occur during pregnancy. We explored these 2 hypotheses by assessing maternal infection during pregnancy and maternal as well as paternal infection in general as predictors of schizophrenia in their offspring. We found a slightly increased risk to be associated with prenatal infection exposure. However, the effect of prenatal infection exposure was not statistically significantly different from the effect of infection exposure in general. Parental infection appeared to be associated with development of schizophrenia in adolescence and early adulthood. Our study does not exclude a specific effect of infection during fetal life; yet, it does suggest that schizophrenia is associated with an increased familial liability to develop severe infection.

by Philip R. Nielsen, Thomas M. Laursen, Preben B. Mortensen

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