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20-09-2010 | Mental health | Article

Childhood CNS infection ‘does not increase risk for schizophrenia’


Free abstract

MedWire News: Results from an Israeli study suggest that central nervous system (CNS) infections in childhood do not increase the risk for schizophrenia in later life.

Writing in the journal Schizophrenia Research, Mark Weiser (Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer) and colleagues explain: "The hypothesized role of CNS infection during childhood in increasing later risk of brain malfunction manifested as schizophrenia has been supported by some but not other studies."

They add: "Some of these studies were based on relatively small sample sizes, while others had difficulty following up the subjects for sufficient time to cover the age of risk for schizophrenia."

To investigate further, the researchers studied data on 3599 individuals who had been hospitalized for a CNS infection and 6371 who had been hospitalized for gastroenteritis between 1970 and 1987 when they were aged less than 16 years.

Using the Israeli National Psychiatric Hospitalization Case Registry, the team found that a total of 72 patients had developed schizophrenia by 2007, including 48 patients with childhood gastroenteritis and 24 with a childhood CNS infection.

After accounting for gender, the researchers found no significant overall association between childhood CNS infection and risk for schizophrenia in later life, at a hazard ratio of 0.81 compared with childhood gastroenteritis.

There were also no significant associations with schizophrenia when viral and bacterial CNS infections were analyzed separately, or when the age of hospitalization for CNS infections was taken into account.

Weiser and team conclude: "Taken together with the other published papers in the field, which include weak positive findings or negative findings and the present report, the data available to date do not seem to indicate the presence of a clearly significant effect of CNS infections in childhood on the risk of psychotic illness."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Mark Cowen

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