Parasitosis, dopaminergic modulation and metabolic disturbances in schizophrenia: evolution of a hypothesis
Treuer T, Martenyi F, Karagianis J.
Neuroendocrinology Letters 2007; 28: 535-540.
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Recent meta-analyses have provided a comprehensive overview of studies investigating Toxoplasma gondii antibodies in schizophrenic patients, thus attempting to clarify the potential role these infections might play in causing schizophrenia. Issues for further research have been suggested. Associations and theories that may enrich the current level of knowledge with regard to this significant subject deserve attention. Anti-parasitic agents as well as antipsychotics are effective in treating parasitosis. Both classes of drugs have been shown to exert dopaminergic activity. Parasites and human organisms have a long history of mutual contact. The effect of parasitosis on the host and the host's response to infection are undoubtedly the product of a long evolutionary process. The neurochemical background of delusions of parasitosis is potentially similar to ancient evolutionary traces of altered neurotransmission and neuropeptide gene expression caused by parasites; these include fungal and viral infections. This is very unique in medicine if a class of drugs is effective in the treatment of an illness but also cures the delusion of the same disorder as well. Furthermore, metabolic disturbances such as hyperglycemia and insulin resistance were reported several decades before the antipsychotic era. Toxoplasmosis may also be linked to insulin resistance. Schizophrenia research can benefit from understanding this evolutionary link. New chemical entities that are liable to alter neurochemical changes related to the brain's perception of the risk of predation secondary to parasites may result in new approaches for the treatment of psychosis. These findings suggest that further research is needed to clarify this evolutionary link between parasite infection and delusions of parasitosis. We believe this model may well open up new avenues of research in the discovery of drugs to counteract schizophrenia.