Study Finds Link Between Inflammation in Maternal Blood and Schizophrenia in Offspring

Maternal inflammation as indicated by the presence in maternal blood of an established inflammatory biomarker, early gestational C-reactive protein, appears to be associated with greater risk for schizophrenia in offspring. In a study by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Medical Center, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, for every 1 mg/L increase in maternal C-reactive protein, the risk of schizophrenia increased by 28 percent.

Using archived maternal serum specimens, the Columbia researchers, with colleagues in Finland, tested for the presence of C-reactive protein in the maternal blood of 777 offspring with schizophrenia and 777 control subjects.

Higher maternal C-reactive protein levels were significantly associated with development of schizophrenia in offspring, even after adjusting for such factors as parental history of psychiatric disorders, twin/singleton birth, location of birth, and maternal socioeconomic status.

Senior author Alan Brown, MD, MPH, professor of epidemiology and of psychiatry, says,

To the extent that the increased inflammation is due to infection, this work may suggest that approaches aimed at preventing infection may have the potential to reduce risk of schizophrenia.

The study, "Elevated Maternal C-Reactive Protein and Increased Risk of Schizophrenia in a National Birth Cohort," was published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Read the Mailman news release here.