Viruses and Schizophrenia

  • Janice R. Stevens
  • Lesley M. Hallick
Part of the Infectious Agents and Pathogenesis book series (IAPA)


Schizophrenia, a mental illness that affects approximately 1% of the U.S. population, is more common than diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or AIDS. The cause remains unknown. None of the prevailing theories of etiology—genetic, biochemical, and psychosocial—can fully explain the epidemiology, clinical course, or pathology of the illness. The hypothesis that viruses or virus-like agents may have a role in the etiology of schizophrenia is not a new one. Following attacks of encephalitis lethargica (von Economo’s encephalitis) and influenza in the pandemics following World War I, both European and American psychiatrists reported schizophrenia-like disorders as sequelae in a significant number of cases.1–3 Although no agent associated with these pandemics was isolated, the clinical course and pathological changes in body and brain at autopsy implied that virus infections of unusual virulence had occurred. Cases typical of viral encephalitis accompanied by or followed by schizophrenia-like psychoses have been reported sporadically, but a common agent has not been identified, nor has the considerable effort of many investigators to detect virus or viral “footprints” from brains or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of schizophrenic patients been very fruitful. The majority of patients with schizophrenia do not have a history suggestive of closely antecedent infection.


Multiple Sclerosis Schizophrenic Patient Brain Specimen Research Diagnostic Criterion Mumps Rubella Rubeola 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janice R. Stevens
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lesley M. Hallick
    • 3
  1. 1.Neuropsychiatry Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Neuroscience CenterSt. Elizabeths HospitalWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Departments of Psychiatry and NeurologyOregon Health Sciences UniversityPortlandUSA
  3. 3.Department of Microbiology and ImmunologyOregon Health Sciences UniversityPortlandUSA

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