Individuals with schizophrenia have increased levels of antibodies to some, but not all, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) proteins indicating an aberrant response to EBV infection, according to a recent study. Researchers employed solid phase immunoassay techniques to measure immunoglobulin G (IgG) class antibodies to EBV virions and defined proteins in 432 individuals with schizophrenia and 311 individuals without a history of a psychiatric disorder. Western blot testing was performed to document reactivity to specific EBV proteins. They found:
- Individuals with schizophrenia had marked elevations in the levels of antibodies to EBV virions as compared to the control population.
- Further analyses indicated increased levels of reactivity to EBV-viral capsid antibody (VCA) but not to EBV nuclear antigen-1 (EBNA-1) or to other human herpes viruses.
- Western blot analysis confirmed increased reactivity to VCA proteins in the group of individuals with schizophrenia and documented a lack of increased levels of antibodies to EBNA-1.
- Genetic analyses indicated an additive effect of increased levels of antibodies to EBV virions and genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia, with individuals with elevated levels of both type of markers having a >8.5-fold odds of a schizophrenia diagnosis.
Dickerson F, Jones-Brando L, Ford G, et al. Schizophrenia is associated with an aberrant immune response to Epstein-Barr virus. [Published online ahead of print November 20, 2018]. Schizophr Bull. doi:10.1093/schbul/sby164.