Food and Behaviour Research

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Candida albicans exposures, sex specificity and cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder

Severance EG, Gressitt KL, Stallings CR, Katsafanas E, Schweinfurth LA, Savage CL, Adamos MB, Sweeney KM, Origoni AE, Khushalani S, Leweke FM, Dickerson FB,Yolken RH (2016) NPJ Schizophrenia 2,  Article number: 16018 (2016) doi:10.1038/npjschz.2016.18 

Web URL: Read the full paper in Nature Publishing Journals here


Immune aberrations in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have led to the hypotheses that infectious agents or corresponding immune responses might contribute to psychiatric etiopathogeneses.

We investigated case–control differences in exposure to the opportunistic fungal pathogen, 
Candida albicans, and examined associations with cognition, medication, lifestyle, and somatic conditions.

We quantified
C. albicans IgG antibodies in two cohorts totaling 947 individuals and evaluated odds ratios (OR) of exposure with psychiatric disorder using multivariate regressions. The case–control cohort included 261 with schizophrenia, 270 with bipolar disorder, and 277 non-psychiatric controls; the second included 139 with first-episode schizophrenia, 78 of whom were antipsychotic naive.

No differences in 
C. albicans exposures were found until diagnostic groups were stratified by sex. In males, C. albicans seropositivity conferred increased odds for a schizophrenia diagnosis (OR 2.04–9.53, P0.0001). In females, C. albicans seropositivity conferred increased odds for lower cognitive scores on Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status (RBANS) in schizophrenia (OR 1.12, P0.004), with significant decreases on memory modules for both disorders (P0.0007–0.03). 

C. albicans IgG levels were not impacted by antipsychotic medications. Gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances were associated with elevated C. albicans in males with schizophrenia and females with bipolar disorder (P0.009–0.02). C. albicans exposure was associated with homelessness in bipolar males (P0.0015).

In conclusion, sex-specific 
C. albicans immune responses were evident in psychiatric disorder subsets. Inquiry regarding C. albicans infection or symptoms may expedite amelioration of this treatable comorbid condition. Yeast exposure as a risk factor for schizophrenia and its associated cognitive and GI effects require further investigation including the possible contribution of gut–brain mechanisms.


For a summary of this research and its implications, see the associated news article:
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