11 June 2024

Bartonella DNA has been found in the blood of people with psychosis.

A study by American scientists has shown that people with psychosis more often have DNA from Bartonella bacteria in their blood than people without a history of psychosis. There was no difference in serological activity against these microorganisms between the groups. A paper on this pilot study on a small sample is published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

A growing number of studies are confirming the role of chronic inflammation in a variety of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including schizophrenia and psychosis. For example, in a study of more than 638,000 Swedes, high erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which is considered an important marker of inflammation, was associated with an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. While the identification of inflammatory biomarkers helps elucidate the potential disease mechanism, identifying unrecognised inflammatory pathogens may prove to be a more effective strategy for treatment development.

Bartonellae are usually transmitted by arthropod vectors or by animal bites and scratches. Once infected, symptoms most commonly include acute fever, muscle pain, headache, and lymph node involvement. In one study, which was interrupted by the covida pandemic, scientists published data showing that people with schizophrenia were more likely to have Bartonella DNA found in their blood.

The aim of the study by Edward Breitschwerdt of North Carolina State University and his American colleagues was therefore to further investigate whether exposure to bacteria of the genus Bartonella is associated with psychosis. They included blood samples from 44 patients with a history of psychosis and 28 controls in a statistical analysis. Serological studies showed that there was no significant difference in seroreactivity to any of the five Bartonella antigens among the two groups.

However, the results of PCR testing for bacteria of the genus Bartonella showed that the difference in the proportion of psychosis patients with Bartonella DNA detected in their blood and control group participants was statistically significant (43.2 per cent in the study group and 14.3 per cent in the control group (p = 0.021)). Bartonella henselae and B. vinsonii were the most common species of bacteria detected. However, the concordance between serological and molecular assay results was not significant.

Although the scientists note that this is only a pilot study, on the basis of which larger and more relevant work is possible, the results show some statistical association between the presence of bacteria of the genus Bartonella in the body and the likelihood of developing psychosis. Basic and epidemiological research is needed to establish a causal relationship between these factors.

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