Autoimmunity in Schizophrenia: A Review of Recent Findings
The pathophysiology of psychotic and other symptoms in schizophrenia remains a mystery despite decades of research. Even though it has been suspected for many years that autoimmune mechanisms may play a role in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, firm evidence for this hypothesis has been lacking. Our studies, over the last 10 years, have revealed that a subgroup of schizophrenics have several significant immunological abnormalities, including increased prevalence of autoimmune diseases and of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) and anticytoplasmic antibodies (ACA), decreased lymphocyte interleukin-2 (IL-2) production, increased serum IL-2 receptor concentration, increased serum IL-6 concentration, and an association with HLA antigens. These findings are characteristic of autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. We also found that some schizophrenics have antibodies to hippocampal antigens (AHA) in their serum, together with lowered IL-2 production. None of the above findings can be interpreted as definitely confirming the role of autoimmunity in schizophrenia. Nevertheless, taken together, the recent evidence points towards the existence of a subgroup of schizophrenics who have immunological findings consistent with that hypothesis. Further studies directed at finding the brain antigens targeted by the immune system in these patients, and longitudinal studies correlating clinical and immune changes over time, are needed.