Viruses, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder

Robert H. Yolken, E. Fuller Torrey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

311 Scopus citations


The hypothesis that viruses or other infectious agents may cause schizophrenia or bipolar disorder dates to the 19th century but has recently been revived. It could explain many clinical, genetic, and epidemiologic aspects of these diseases, including the winter-spring birth seasonality, regional differences, urban birth, household crowding, having an older sibling, and prenatal exposure to influenza as risk factors. It could also explain observed immunological changes such as abnormalities of lymphocytes, proteins, autoantibodies, and cytokines. However, direct strides of viral infections in individuals with these psychiatric diseases have been predominantly negative. Most studies have examined antibodies in blood or cerebrospinal fluid and relatively few studies have been done on viral antigens, genomes, cytopathic effect on cell culture, and animal transmission experiments. Viral research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder is thus comparable to vital research on multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease: an attractive hypothesis with scattered interesting findings but no clear proof. The application of molecular biological techniques may allow the identification of novel infectious agents and the associations of these novel agents with serious mental diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-145
Number of pages15
JournalClinical Microbiology Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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