Exposure to common infections and risk of suicide and self-harm: a longitudinal general population study

Maija Lindgren, Minna Holm, Niina Markkula, Tommi Härkänen, Faith Dickerson, Robert H. Yolken, Jaana Suvisaari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Common infectious agents, such as Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) and several human herpes viruses, have been linked to increased risk of self-harm. The aim of this study was to investigate the associations between self-harm and seropositivity to T. gondii, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Herpes Simplex virus Type 1 (HSV-1), and Cytomegalovirus (CMV). IgM and IgG antibodies to these infections were measured in the Health 2000 project nationally representative of the whole Finnish adult population, and 6250 participants, age 30 and over, were followed for 15 years via registers. In addition, lifetime suicidal ideation and suicide attempts based on medical records and interview were assessed within a subsample of 694 participants screened to a substudy for possible psychotic symptoms or as controls. Among the 6250 participants, 14 individuals died of suicide and an additional 4 individuals had a diagnosis of intentional self-harm during follow-up. Serological evidence of lifetime or acute infections was not found to be associated with these suicidal outcomes. However, in the subsample, those seropositive for CMV had fewer suicide attempts compared to those seronegative, adjusting for gender, age, educational level, childhood family size, regional residence, CRP, and screen status (OR for multiple attempts = 0.40, 95% confidence interval 0.20‒0.83, p = 0.014). To conclude, common infections were not associated with risk of death by suicide or with self-harm diagnoses at a 15-year follow-up in the general population sample. Our finding of an increased number of suicide attempts among persons seronegative for CMV calls for further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-839
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience
Volume270
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

Keywords

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Epstein–Barr virus (EBV)
  • Herpes
  • Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1)
  • Suicide attempt
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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