Maternal Infection and Schizophrenia: Implications for Prevention
Accumulating evidence suggests that maternal infection is a risk factor for schizophrenia. Prospective epidemiological studies indicate that maternal influenza, toxoplasmosis, and genital/reproductive infection are associated with this disorder in offspring. Preclinical models of maternal immune activation have supported the neurobiological plausibility of these microbes in schizophrenia. Previous studies suggest that treatment or prophylactic efforts targeting these and other infections could have significant effects on reducing the incidence of schizophrenia, given that they are common in the population and the effect sizes derived from epidemiological studies of these and other microbial pathogens and schizophrenia, to date, are not small. Fortunately, the occurrence of many of these infections can be reduced with relatively practical and inexpensive interventions that are scalable to large populations given adequate resources. Hence, in the present article, we focus on the potential for prevention of schizophrenia by control of infection, using these 3 categories of infection as examples. Lessons learned from previous successful public health efforts targeting these infections, including the relative advantages and disadvantages of these measures, are reviewed.