Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder, which is caused by the interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Neurotropic viruses have been proposed as a candidate environmental factor for a long time. This hypothesis is based on the fact that the risk to develop schizophrenia is increased after prenatal, perinatal or childhood infections, being born in winter season or in urban areas. In addition, polymorphisms in many genes associated with schizophrenia are also known to be involved in host-pathogen interactions.
Although different studies observed increased rates of seroconversion to various viruses (e.g. cytomegalovirus) in patients with schizophrenia, these findings are still controversial.
We aim to identify (novel) viruses involved in the development of schizophrenia and to further investigate how viruses may contribute to schizophrenia pathogenesis. We also investigate inflammatory and immune mechanisms that have been linked to schizophrenia. These immune changes could represent a risk factor for viral infection and pathology.