Major theories about the etiologies of chronic mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia include genetic and environmental factors such as famine and infection. It is likely that multiple genes play a role in the pathogenesis of these disorders, but no single gene has been identified as causative. Several viruses have been investigated as potential candidates, but conflicting reports exist. Although a relationship between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia with autoimmune disorders has also been documented for many years, reports are often conflicting. We hypothesize that parvovirus B19 (B19), a common human pathogen, due to its ability to infect the brain and induce autoimmunity, is a strong candidate that may unite prevailing theories. In particular, our preliminary data suggest that B19 may be most likely involved in co-morbid bipolar and autoimmune thyroid disorders in females. In schizophrenics, the gender trend may be reversed. We propose that there is a complex interaction between immuno-genetics, autoimmunity, gender, and B19 infection that leads to at least some forms of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Future studies that investigate this hypothesis are warranted and outlined.
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