Schizophrenia, autoantibodies and responses to gluten

 

Schizophrenia is a complex disease that many of us are peripherally familiar with, at least in part. For many of us, the term “schizophrenia” conjures up images of people talking to themselves, ranting and running naked in the park.

So why are we talking about it on Autoimmune Patient?  

Schizophrenia is not definitively recognized as an autoimmune disease, but it warrants attention here because there is increasing evidence that it may share some autoimmune etiology. Like all autoimmune diseases, there seems to be a genetic component to schizophrenia, although one responsible gene has not been found, indicating that environmental factors play a role in the development of the disease.  Celiac disease has long been suspected a being connected with schizophrenia, but a common link has yet to be found.

In the first place, at least for men, schizophrenia tends to appear in late adolescence/early adulthood, a feature that is also shared by many autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, lupus, autoimmune thyroid disease, and narcolepsy, just to name a few.

Secondly, autoantibodies to various receptors (muscarinic, nicotinic, dopaminergic, and NMDA) are found in schizophrenia, and there is a strong association with schizophrenia and the risk of developing other autoimmune disease.   In a recent study, individuals with schizophrenia were reported to have an increased risk of Graves disease, psoriasis, autoimmune anemia, Sjogren’s syndrome, myasthenia gravis, and celiac disease.

More recently, it was discovered that individuals with schizophrenia elicit distinct immunological reactions to gluten that are clinically distinct form those reactions seen in celiac disease, and not controlled by the canonical “celiac disease genes” HLA DQ2/DQ8.

 

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