Department of Economics and Business Economics

Large-scale study of Toxoplasma and Cytomegalovirus shows an association between infection and serious psychiatric disorders

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Kristoffer Sølvsten Burgdorf, Rigshospitalet
  • ,
  • Betina Trabjerg, The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research (iPSYCH), Aarhus, Denmark
  • ,
  • Marianne Giørtz Pedersen
  • Janna Nissen, Rigshospitalet
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  • Karina Banasik, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3B, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Ole Birger Pedersen, Næstved Hospital
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  • Erik Sørensen, Rigshospitalet
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  • Kaspar René Nielsen, Aalborg University Hospital
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  • Margit Hørup Larsen, Rigshospitalet
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  • Christian Erikstrup
  • Peter Bruun-Rasmussen, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3B, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark.
  • ,
  • David Westergaard, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3B, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Lise Wegner Thørner, Rigshospitalet
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  • Henrik Hjalgrim, The Statens Serum Institut, Rigshospitalet
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  • Helene Martina Paarup, Odense University Hospital (OUH)
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  • Søren Brunak, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3B, 2200 Copenhagen N, Denmark.
  • ,
  • Carsten B Pedersen
  • E Fuller Torrey, Stanley Medical Research Institute, Kensington, MD, School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA.
  • ,
  • Thomas Werge, The Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research (iPSYCH), Aarhus, Denmark, Copenhagen University Hospital
  • ,
  • Preben Bo Mortensen
  • Robert Yolken, Johns Hopkins University
  • ,
  • Henrik Ullum, Rigshospitalet

BACKGROUND: Common infectious pathogens have been associated with psychiatric disorders, self-violence and risk-taking behavior.

METHODS: This case-control study reviews register data on 81,912 individuals from the Danish Blood Donor Study to identify individuals who have a psychiatric diagnosis (N=2,591), have attempted or committed suicide (N=655), or have had traffic accidents (N=2,724). For all cases, controls were frequency matched by age and sex, resulting in 11,546 participants. Plasma samples were analyzed for immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies against Toxoplasma gondii and cytomegalovirus (CMV).

RESULTS: T. gondii was detected in 25·9% of the population and was associated with schizophrenia (odds ratio [OR], 1·47; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1·03-2·09). Accounting for temporality, with pathogen exposure preceding outcome, the association was even stronger (IRR, 2·78; 95% CI, 1·27-6·09). A very weak association between traffic accident and toxoplasmosis (OR, 1·11; 95% CI, 1·00-1·23, p = 0.054) was found. CMV was detected in 60·8% of the studied population and was associated with any psychiatric disorder (OR, 1·17; 95% CI, 1·06-1·29), but also with a smaller group of neurotic, stress-related, and somatoform disorders (OR, 1·27; 95% CI, 1·12-1·44), and with attempting or committing suicide (OR, 1·31; 95% CI, 1·10-1·56). Accounting for temporality, any psychiatric disorder (IRR, 1·37; 95% CI, 1·08-1·74) and mood disorders (IRR, 1·43; 95% CI, 1·01-2·04) were associated with exposure to CMV. No association between traffic accident and CMV (OR, 1·06; 95% CI, 0·97-1·17) was found.

CONCLUSIONS: This large-scale serological study is the first study to examine temporality of pathogen exposure and to provide evidence of a causal relationship between T. gondii and schizophrenia, and between CMV and any psychiatric disorder.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Volume79
Pages (from-to)152-158
Number of pages7
ISSN0889-1591
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

    Research areas

  • Antibodies, Cytomegalovirus, Infection, Parasite, psychiatric disorders, Serology, Suicide, Toxoplasma gondii, Toxoplasmosis, Traffic accidents

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