Researchers: Are Infectious Diseases Triggering Psychological Suffering?

Researchers: Are Infectious Diseases Triggering Psychological Suffering?

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Infections can apparently lead to mental disorders

A Danish study shows suspicious overlaps in the statistics between infections and subsequent mental illnesses. The scientists suspect a connection.

80 percent probability of a mental disorder

In an observational study, Ole Köhler-Forsberg and his team from Aarhus University Hospital found that children and adolescents who were treated for an infection have an increased risk of developing a mental disorder afterwards. If you are hospitalized because of an infection, this probability is more than 80 percent.

Proven relationship?

The scientists expressly point out that an observational study cannot prove a causal connection. But they think it is possible.

Other possible causal relationships

Not only is there a direct influence of the pathogens on the brain, indirect influences such as the intestinal flora disturbed by antibiotics or the affected immune defense could also play a role.

Different mental disorders

According to the researchers, the results showed that the immune system and infection participate in the development of very different mental disorders, from obsessive-compulsive to personality disorders.

Comprehensive study

A connection between individual mental illnesses and survived infections was known from older studies. The researchers are now fully evaluating data from the Danish national patient registry - from Danes born between 1995 and 2012. Anyone who was in a clinic because of a severe infection increased the risk of mental illness by 84 percent. If an infection was treated purely with medication, the risk was 40 percent more.

Differences in medicines

The risk was greatest in patients treated with antibiotics; there was no increased risk with medication for viruses or fungi.

What mental illnesses broke out?

The greatest risk for those previously infected was obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, personality and behavioral disorders, autism and attention deficit disorder.

What was the probability in detail?

Teenagers increased the likelihood of obsessive-compulsive disorder infection eight-fold, and anxiety, behavioral, and developmental disorder 5.6-fold. There was no connection between depression and eating disorders.

What could be the causes?

The researchers think that the pathogens can directly influence the central nervous system. Or else, the antibiotics influence the intestinal flora so much that brain activities are disrupted. “We know that the gut and brain are closely linked. The immune system itself could also attack the nervous system while fighting off the pathogen, ”the scientists emphasize. Viviane Labrie and Lena Brundin from the Van Andel Research Institute in Michigan support the Danish researchers and consider the study to be an indication that pathogens play a role in the development of mental disorders.

What would be the impact?

If the suspicion that infections trigger subsequent mental illnesses is confirmed, this would be an important approach to prevent, diagnose and treat mental disorders. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

Video: Presentation: Infections, immune system and mental illness (August 2022).