A Population-Based Cohort Study With Linkage of Danish National Registers
Infections and immune responses have been suggested to play an important role in the etiology of schizophrenia. Several studies have reported associations between maternal infections during pregnancy and the child's risk of schizophrenia; however, infection during childhood and adolescence unrelated to maternal infection during pregnancy has not been studied to nearly the same extent and the results are far from conclusive. Data were drawn from 2 population-based registers, the Danish Psychiatric Central Register and the Danish National Hospital Register. We used a historical population-based cohort design and selected all individuals born in Denmark between 1981 and 1996 (n = 843 390). We identified all individuals with a first-time hospital contact with schizophrenia from 1991 through 2010. Out of the 3409 individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, a total of 1549 individuals had had a hospital contact with infection before their schizophrenia diagnosis (45%). Our results indicate that individuals who have had a hospital contact with infection are more likely to develop schizophrenia (relative risk [RR] = 1.41; 95% CI: 1.32-1.51) than individuals who had not had such a hospital contact. Bacterial infection was the type of infection that was associated with the highest risk of schizophrenia (RR = 1.63; 95% CI: 1.47-1.82). Our study does not exclude that a certain type of infection may have a specific effect; yet, it does suggest that schizophrenia is associated with a wide range of infections. This association may be due to inflammatory responses affecting the brain or genetic and environmental risk factors aggregating in families.
Schizophrenia Bulletin, 2014, Vol 40, Issue 6, p. 1526-1532