Flu During Pregnancy: The Bearer of Mental Disorders?

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flu during pregnancy and autism.jpgEarlier in this blog period, I wrote a post about flu during pregnancy being possibly linked to the development of autism in the mother's child. Turns out, autism isn't the only disorder that is linked to flu and pregnancy. Studies have also shown that flu during pregnancy also puts the fetus at an increased chance of developing schizophrenia later in life.

Much like the study done linking the flu and autism, the study done linking flu and schizophrenia involves an increased risk of becoming diagnosed later in life. However, the study linking maternal flu and schizophrenia seems to be backed up by more evidence than that linking it with autism. Although correlation does not equal causation and these are not double blind randomized control trials, this link brings up many interesting questions, not only about the link the flu plays but also a possible connection in the origins of autism and schizophrenia. As it turns out, there has been some research on this possible link between autism and schizophrenia--both disorders that we still have very much to learn about. As the mentioned article points out, while both are very distinctly different disorders, they share many of the same symptoms, such as being socially withdrawn and having difficulties in communication. Also, both disorder seem to have genetic component, however with much more evidence existing relating schizophrenia to genes than relating autism to genes.

So, with all of these factors, that leaves the question: What is the relationship (if there is one) between autism, schizophrenia, and prenatal exposure to the flu virus. It seems that if there is a relationship, it has to do with some effect that the virus has on the brain in the very early stages of development, before one is even born. Perhaps then, autism and schizophrenia may be related to the same part of the brain and the same "abnormalities" cause the disorders, linking them closer than we might know. Maybe the flu virus somehow alters of inhibits the growth of a certain part of the brain that is responsible for functions the autism and schizophrenia cause abnormalities in. The other question is, why the flu virus and not other illness? We know that both disorders have been linked to a genetic basis. Maybe mothers who have the genes for a greater risk of passing on genes that develop autism or schizophrenia are also somehow more susceptible to the flu virus? Or maybe there is an immune system factor here and disorders like autism and schizophrenia can be "caught" but the vast majority of people's immune systems fight them off? What do you guys think? What are some possible links between mothers experiencing the flu during pregnancy and the development of disorders such as autism and schizophrenia by the child?

1 Comment

I think repetition in experiments is essential in order to find links and further research and knowledge. In this case, it could not be more necessary to continue to replicate and repeat studies that provide the suggested link the schizophrenia, autism, and any possible disorder when women who are pregnant have the flu. An article in USA today published in 2004, researched from Mailman School of Public Health, the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Kaiser Permanente examined many medical records: "12,094 people whose mothers had taken part in a large child-health-and-development study during their pregnancies, from 1959 to 1966. Researchers examined archived blood samples taken from the mothers of 64 people within that group who developed schizophrenia as adults and compared them with blood samples of mothers of 125 others, matched by age and other characteristics, who did not develop schizophrenia."

Based on this, there is evidence that the flu plays a factor in schizophrenia.

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