I’ve written here several times, and in my book, about gastrointestinal links to autism, but there is also a literature on GI issues in schizophrenia. The newest paper, from the group of Bob Yolken, Faith Dickerson and colleagues at Johns Hopkins reports higher levels of an inflammation marker (ASCA) in the sera of schizophrenic subjects than in controls. This was true for those with chronic disease, those with recent onset disease, and those who were not taking anti-psychotic drugs. The latter point is of interest because these drugs can slow gut motility and may affect the GI immune system by reducing an inflammatory state. Since inflammation can lead to a “leaky gut” in which molecules can escape into the circulation, the researchers also assayed the sera for antibodies against the food antigens, casein and gluten. The idea is that if these food materials did escape into the circulation, the immune system might recognized them as foreign (since they are not usually in the serum in that form), and make antibodies against them. Indeed, the sera from the schizophrenic subjects do display elevated levels of such antibodies. Moreover, the level of the inflammation marker (ASCA) correlates with the levels of antibodies against casein and gluten. Therefore, this paper provides further evidence of GI inflammation, and raises the possibility of leaky gut as well. Readers of this blog and my book will also recognize the parallels with autism, where there is evidence of leaky gut and also some evidence of antibodies of this same type. Many parents have indicated that removal of casein- and gluten- containing foods from their autistic child’s diet improves symptoms, although the clinical evidence for the efficacy of this approach is weak at present. The big question remains, of course as to whether GI symptoms are a side effect in these disorders, or if they are involved in the pathogenesis – do they play a role in the onset progression of the disease, as well as the abnormal behaviors and thoughts? Current studies with animals will shed light on these questions.