The oropharyngeal microbiome is altered in individuals with schizophrenia and mania

Robert Yolken, Emese Prandovszky, Emily G. Severance, Glen Hatfield, Faith Dickerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is being increasingly recognized that human mucosal surfaces are not sterile but are colonized with microorganisms collectively known as the microbiome. The microbiome can alter brain functioning in humans and animals by way of a series of interactions operative in the brain-immune-gut interactome. We characterized the oropharyngeal microbiome in 316 individuals, including 121 with schizophrenia, 62 with mania, 48 with major depressive disorder, and 85 controls without a psychiatric disorder. We found that the oropharyngeal microflora of individuals with schizophrenia and individuals with mania differed from controls in composition and abundance as measured by the weighted UniFrac distance (both p < .003 adjusted for covariates and multiple comparisons). This measure in individuals with major depressive disorder did not differ from that of controls. We also identified five bacterial taxa which differed among the diagnostic groups. Three of the taxa, Neisseria subflava, Weeksellaceae, and Prevotella, were decreased in individuals with schizophrenia or mania as compared to controls, while Streptococci was increased in these groups. One taxa, Schlegelella, was only found in individuals with mania. Neisseria subflava was also positively associated with cognitive functioning as measured by the Repeatable Battery for the Assessment of Neuropsychological Status. There were no taxa significantly altered in individuals with major depression. Individuals with schizophrenia and mania have altered compositions of the oropharyngeal microbiome. An understanding of the biology of the microbiome and its effect on the brain might lead to new insights into the pathogenesis, and ultimately, the prevention and treatment of these disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia Research
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Depression
  • Immunity
  • Mania
  • Microbiome
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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