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Toxoplasma gondii and schizophrenia: a review of published RCTs

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Over the last 60 years, accumulating evidence has suggested that acute, chronic, and maternal Toxoplasma gondii infections predispose to schizophrenia. More recent evidence suggests that chronically infected patients with schizophrenia present with more severe disease. After acute infection, parasites form walled cysts in the brain, leading to lifelong chronic infection and drug resistance to commonly used antiparasitics. Chronic infection is the most studied and closely linked with development and severity of schizophrenia. There are currently four published randomized controlled trials evaluating antiparasitic drugs, specifically azithromycin, trimethoprim, artemisinin, and artemether, in patients with schizophrenia. No trials have demonstrated a change in psychopathology with adjunctive treatment. Published trials have either selected drugs without evidence against chronic infection or used them at doses too low to reduce brain cyst burden. Furthermore, trials have failed to achieve sufficient power or account for confounders such as previous antipsychotic treatment, sex, age, or rhesus status on antiparasitic effect. There are currently no ongoing trials of anti-Toxoplasma therapy in schizophrenia despite ample evidence to justify further testing.

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  1. Search strategy included querying Medline, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, PsychInfo, and Embase with query “Toxoplasm* AND schizophreni*”. Resulting abstracts were screened for relevant randomized controlled trials in humans. Reference lists of included trials were screened for additional trials.


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Correspondence to Sam D. Chorlton.

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Chorlton, S.D. Toxoplasma gondii and schizophrenia: a review of published RCTs. Parasitol Res 116, 1793–1799 (2017).

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