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July 16, 2007

Sometimes environmental factors are key to disease

Pregnant women who get respiratory infections in the second trimester are up to seven times more likely to have a child with schizophrenia. There is also an increased risk of autism. Blocking the proteins generated by the mother in the second trimester would prevent millions in the USA and around the world from getting schizophrenia and autism. It would help prevent 20-25% of the homeless problem.

California Institute of Technology neuroscientist Prof Paul Patterson said this risk was greater than any known genetic influence.

He believes the virus triggers a mental switch that alters and inflames the fetal brain and sets the child up for mental illness in later life.

They found that it was the mother's immune response that caused the problem, rather than the virus itself.

"The proteins produced by the mother's immune system to fight the infection seemed to be linked to the problem," Prof Patterson said.


Schizophrenia, which affects 3.2 million Americans [or 2.1 million depending upon source of study], is a chronic, recurrent mental illness, characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking. The medications used to treat the disorder are called antipsychotics.

It has been estimated that 25 percent of homeless adults aged 18 years and older suffer from severe mental illness

About 12 million people of the U.S. adult population have experienced literal homelessness at some time in their lives. In 1996, the most recent year for which such data are available, 3.5 million Americans were homeless at least once during the year, an increase of 1.2 million over that estimated 10 years earlier.


In 2005, more than 1.5 million people in the world are afflicted with autism. In the next decade, an estimated 4.5 million people will be diagnosed with ASD [autism].

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