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Yeast infection linked to mental illness

By Tim Sandle     May 7, 2016 in Science
Infection with a common yeast can lead to mental health problems in some cases, according to new research. This is shown from analysis of patterns relating to psychiatric patients.
The potential connection between Candida species of yeast and mental health disorders was made after researchers noticed a correlation between the infections and men with either medically certified schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It was later found that women with the mental health conditions, who also had an association with yeast infections, performed worse on a standard memory tests.
With the correlation, the key factor is “infection.” Most people carry Candida (particularly C. albicans) as part of their skin microbiome and it is a resident within the gut. It is only under certain circumstances that an infection arises. This is normally when the immune system becomes compromised or weakened.
With the research, the scientists are keen not to imply causation. What they suggest is that lifestyle and weaker immune systems could be interacting and this may enhance the possibility of mental health issues developing, as well as impairing the memory. The association builds on previous work that suggests schizophrenia may be related to problems with the immune system, and that yeast infections arise with weaker immune systems.
Data was gathered from patients within the Sheppard Pratt Health System. Here 808 people were examined, aged between 18 and 65. Here 277 people were controls, with no history of mental health problems. Of the others, 261 individuals were diagnosed with schizophrenia and 270 people were assessed as having bipolar disorder.
Blood samples were taken from the people, to assess immune system health (based on the level of antibodies to Candida.) Various factors of age, ethnicity and so on were accounted for.
After this, an association was drawn. Here it was found:
26 percent of men with schizophrenia had Candida antibodies compared with 14 percent of the control group;
No difference was found between women with schizophrenia, yeast infection and the control group;
26 percent of men with bipolar disorder showed evidence of current or past yeast infections compared with 14 percent of the control group (similar to the schizophrenia rates);
Women with schizophrenia and high Candida antibody levels scored about an average of 11 points lower on the test for immediate memory than the controls;
Women with schizophrenia and the highest Candida antibody levels scored almost 15 points lower on the test for delayed memory.
The findings might, therefore, act as a warning to clinicians that if someone who is susceptible to mental health problems is developing a yeast infection, it will be important to treat the condition promptly.
The findings are published in the journal npj Schizophrenia. The paper is headed “Candida albicans exposures, sex specificity and cognitive deficits in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”
More about Mental health, Yeast, candida, Illness
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