flu during pregnancy & bipolar in offspring

Readers of this book and blog are well aware that influenza infection during pregnancy increases the risk for schizophrenia and autism in the offspring. Now Alan Brown and colleagues at Columbia Univ expand that risk to bipolar disorder (BD). The new paper provides evidence that the risk for BD increases nearly 4-fold, with nearly a 6-fold increase for a BD subtype with psychotic features. These numbers are similar to the 3-7-fold increase for schizophrenia risk that Brown found found previously. While the most significant risk for a schizophrenia outcome was associated with infection during the first half of pregnancy (primarily late first and early second trimester; not third), the increased risk for BD in the offspring appears to be associated with infection at any time during pregnancy. There is a very slightly increased risk for infection during the 2nd or 3rd trimesters. Thus, it is possible that the timing of the infection may influence the outcome, although genetic background and the intensity of the infection could also play a role.

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5 Responses to flu during pregnancy & bipolar in offspring

  1. Thank you for this article, it’s made me wonder…

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23585028
    Cannabinoid Receptor Type 2, but not Type 1, is Up-Regulated in Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells of Children Affected by Autistic Disorders.

    Could the immune response to flu during pregnancy perhaps lead to similar changes in the endocannabinoids system?
    Have differences been found in the ECS’s of people with BP and SZ? Are they same, different, or opposite to the way in which autistic ECS’s are different?

    • phpatterson says:

      Unfortunately, I have not kept up with the literature on possible involvement of the ECSs in these disorders. -PHP

      • Is it not the case in medicine, that exogenous ligands can give us these clues?
        Opium was a pain killer for thousands of years, and it eventually led to us discovering and understanding the role of opiate-receptors with respect to pain.
        If not for the moral panic surrounding cannabis, we would notice that cannabis relieves symptoms of mental illness (or exacerbates them), which should lead us to suspect a role for the ECS in the aetiology of these conditions.

        Aside from that, is there anything the body does, which is not in some way touched by the ECS? Cast your mind back 300 million years….!

  2. Hi Paul

    What is our current understanding of postnatal infection of the infant in regards to outcome risk as described above ?

    • phpatterson says:

      Alan Brown tells me that virtually nothing is known about a postnatal infection risk for mental illness. In rodents, such infections alter later life responses to immune challenges, and are likely to properly educate the immune system. – PHP

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