Psychosis is a mental health condition that causes people to perceive or interpret things differently from those around them. Researchers have now detected the presence of two antibodies that may trigger episodes of psychosis in children. Antibodies defend the body against harmful bacterial, virus, and other invaders but sometimes the body makes antibodies that attack its own healthy cells. Auto-immune disorders develop in these cases. The findings of this new study affirms a longstanding belief that auto-immune disorders play a significant role in psychiatric illnesses.
During the study, the researchers detected two antibodies among eight out of 43 children experiencing their first episode of psychosis, but no such antibodies in healthy children. The antibodies to the dopamine D2 receptor or the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor are key neural signalling proteins which have previously been implicated in psychosis.
Fabienne Brilot from the University of Sydney and senior author of the study, said, "The antibodies we have detected in children having a first episode of acute psychosis suggest there is a distinct subgroup for whom auto-immunity plays a role in their illness. The finding suggests that better interventions are possible, providing hope that major disability can be prevented for the subset of children experiencing acute psychosis with antibodies."