Schizophrenia confers differences down to the microscopic level, or so suggests a new study. Researchers have found the stark contrast between bacteria thriving in throats of schizophrenic patients and those in healthy people. This might be pointing to a difference in the functioning of the immune system that affects brain function in the two groups. The findings have been published in the journal Peer J.
Schizophrenic patients have throat bacteria that are significantly different from healthy individuals; after sequencing the genomes of colonies of bacteria living in the throats of two groups of humans – healthy volunteers and schizophrenic patients – the difference recorded was indeed found to be significant.
The microorganisms inhabiting the human gut allegedly have certain effects on the brain and its functioning indicating that mental disorders might be linked with a change in the bacterial communities. The researchers have not confirmed the reason behind the occurrence of the different bacteria though.
“The role of the human microbiome in schizophrenia remains largely unexplored,” write the authors of the study. “The microbiome has been shown to alter brain development and modulate behaviour and cognition in animals through gut-brain connections, and research in humans suggests that it may be a modulating factor in many disorders.”
Ascomyta, a type of bacteria, as well as lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium) were found to be more abundant in schizophrenic patients than the healthy group. Furthermore, the latter were host to a larger variety of microorganisms.
The new study constituted additional potential evidence pointing to the theory that gut bacteria might be linked to brain function. How does this happen is not clear. Altered brain function might be associated with the immune system: schizophrenic people are thought to have weaker immunity that might account for the difference in bacterial populations.
If bacteria are really linked to schizophrenia, new treatment methodologies based on the gut biota might be developed.