Oxford Research Sheds Light on Psychotic Illnesses

Researchers from Oxford University have conducted a study which suggests that some sufferers of psychotic illnesses may have a treatable immune disorder.

Approximately 9% of people presenting with psychotic symptoms also had signs of immune dysfunction.

Those affected had antibodies in their blood linked to ntibody-mediated encephalitis.
In this condition, antibodies made by the immune system mistakenly attack the surface receptors of brain cells.

This can result in hallucinations, paranoia and delusions.

Although researchers are unable to draw broad conclusions from the study, researchers advise that people presenting with symptoms of psychosis should be given a test for antibodies as part of their overall diagnosis.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford, King’s College London and the University of Cambridge, and funded by the Medical Research Council and published in the peer-reviewed journal, The Lancet Psychiatry.

However, it is important to note that two of the researchers and the University of Oxford hold patents for tests to identify neuronal antibodies.

This could be viewed as a significant conflict of interest.

While the media has reported on this research, the fact that 4% of people without psychosis also had the antibodies in question, which meant that the results are not statistically significant.

Researchers found that 20 of 228 (9%) people with psychosis had one or more brain cell receptor antibodies in their blood, compared with four (4%) of 105 people in the control group.

Seven people with psychosis (3%) had antibodies to the NMDAR receptor, a protein found in nerve cells that has previously been linked to antibody-mediated encephalitis, compared with none of the control group.

After the experiment, the researchers claimed that “some patients with first-episode psychosis had antibodies against NMDAR that might be relevant to their illness”.

The Scientists involved also asserted that as the symptoms were similar whether someone had relevant antibodies or not, “the only way to detect those with potentially pathogenic antibodies is to screen all patients with first-episode psychosis when they are first seen by doctors”.

Despite the interesting results, there is no evidence that most of the antibodies tested are more common in people with psychosis than in people without mental illness.

There is little indication that the assertion of the researchers, regarding blood tests, is supported.

But further research may be justified.


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