Throat and Mouth Bacteria Linked to Schizophrenia

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People with schizophrenia have different collections of oral bacteria than those without the mental illness, according to two new studies.

The findings suggest that changes in mouth and throat germs might be associated with the illness and could offer a new tool for diagnosis.

The first study, published in August in the journal PeerJ, found that lactic acid bacteria was at least 400 times more abundant in schizophrenic patients than control subjects.

The authors, who come from a number of institutes and universities across the world, said they wanted to see whether the microbiome – the totality of microbes in the human body – was substantially different in people with schizophrenia than controls. There have been earlier studies that suggest that the microbiome might play a role in other similar conditions such as depression and anxiety.

The first study also revealed that a lactate-utilizing bacterium present in feces and an opportunistic fungus were also present at higher levels in the schizophrenic group.

The second study was published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin in early September and conducted at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center by scientists at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Stanley Research Program at Sheppard Pratt Health System in Maryland.

The scientists in the second study found that the level of Lactobactillus phage phiadh – a probiotic – was significantly different in individuals with schizophrenia versus control patients. The high level of the probiotic has been shown in animal models to alter the microbiome.

The authors of the second study concluded the study by saying that “the biological consequences of this difference” are “worthy of further investigations.”

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