MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Emily G. Severance, Ph.D
Stanley Division of Developmental Neurovirology
Department of Pediatrics
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Severance: This research stems in part from anecdotal dialogues that we had with people with psychiatric disorders and their families, and repeatedly the issue of yeast infections came up. We found that Candida overgrowth was more prevalent in people with mental illness compared to those without psychiatric disorders and the patterns that we observed occurred in a surprisingly sex-specific manner. The levels of IgG antibodies directed against the Candida albicans were elevated in males with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder compared to controls. In females, there were no differences in antibody levels between these groups, but in women with mental illness who had high amounts of these antibodies, we found significant memory deficits compared to those without evidence of past infection.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Dr. Severance: Primary care providers should evaluate patients in the context that Candida yeast infections are both generally preventable and treatable. It would be great if nutritional guidelines could be written and implemented to minimize conditions conducive to the development of these infections, but compliance may likely vary depending on the numerous factors that affect people living with these disorders.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Severance: We plan to continue this research and we are especially interested in the mechanisms by which Candida might become pathogenic to the brain. For example, is it the organism itself or a toxin produced by the yeast that can travel to the brain? Or is it the body’s own immune response to the yeast that ultimately directly impacts the brain?
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Severance: This paper has received some press attention suggesting that these yeast infections are only those that are sexually transmitted and this implication is incorrect. Candida albicans is a normal component of the human body microbiome and a Candida yeast infection very often reflects an imbalance of the body’s own microbial community.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Emily G Severance, Kristin L Gressitt, Catherine R Stallings, Emily Katsafanas, Lucy A Schweinfurth, Christina L Savage, Maria B Adamos, Kevin M Sweeney, Andrea E Origoni, Sunil Khushalani, F Markus Leweke, Faith B Dickerson, Robert H Yolken. Candida albicans exposures, sex specificity and cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. npj Schizophrenia, 2016; 2: 16018 DOI:10.1038/npjschz.2016.18
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