Childhood abuse and inflammation in schizophrenia: implications for new treatments?

Researchers have discovered that people with schizophrenia who have been abused in childhood have high levels of inflammation as adults. This finding will help with the development of new and personalised treatments for schizophrenia patients.

A new study at Neuroscience Research Australia and at the UNSW School of Psychiatry, led by Doctor Yann Quidé, has found that levels of inflammation in adults with schizophrenia were associated with the severity of sexual abuse they experienced in childhood. This indicates that adverse experiences from childhood may have severe biological consequences later in life.

“Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders are extremely diverse, meaning no single treatment is 100 per cent effective for everyone. There are other factors involved,” said Dr Yann Quidé.

“Exposure to childhood abuse impacts the development of the brain and other biological systems, including inflammation. Among different types of traumatic events experienced in childhood, we found that the severity of sexual abuse was associated with increased levels of inflammation”, said Dr Quidé.

“These results suggest that using anti-inflammatory drugs, in addition to traditional treatments, may be beneficial to schizophrenia patients exposed to severe childhood trauma,” said Dr Quidé, noting that another study found that such drugs were efficient in reducing depressive symptoms in a subgroup of patients with bipolar disorder exposed to childhood trauma.

“Clinical trials are needed to determine the benefits of these drugs in schizophrenia patients exposed to severe maltreatment in childhood. This may help to reduce the social and economic burden associated with schizophrenia”, said Dr Quidé.