Alternative practitioners and some researchers have proclaimed an alleged link between candida fungal infections and schizophrenia for years, but now a peer-reviewed study conducted by researchers at the George Washington University in Washington, DC has demonstrated a very real possible link between candida fungal infections and schizophrenia. In an area of the throat called the oropharynx, people with schizophrenia demonstrate unusual levels of oral bacteria and oral fungal growth.
In addition to differences between lactic acid bacteria, people suffering from schizophrenia demonstrated more abundant levels of the fungal species Candida dubliniensis, according to the researchers and lead author Eduardo Castro-Nallar.
The oropharynx includes the back of the mouth, the back one-third of the tongue, the soft palate, the tonsils, and the side and back walls of the throat. Only 16 people with schizophrenia and 16 people without schizophrenia that were used as a control group participated in the research study, but the results were striking enough to be noteworthy, especially considering earlier suspicions that candida and bacteria might be somehow linked to mental health.
"When Candida migrates from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream, it secretes metabolic waste products (phospholipase and acetaldehyde) that can adversely affect the body's metabolic, neurological, endocrine, and immune systems. Research performed on rats has demonstrated the ability of acetaldehyde to penetrate the blood-brain-barrier. Once inside the brain, acetaldehyde can interact with the brain's chemistry to produce a number of symptoms that are typically diagnosed as mental health disorders. Many of these symptoms include: depression, forgetfulness, poor concentration, anxiety, irritability, bipolar disorder, mood swings and thoughts of suicide, to name a few. If these symptoms exist in a patient suffering with Candida overgrowth, they may be misdiagnosed as a mental health disorder and this poor soul could end in a mental facility on a diet of psychotropic drugs for the rest of their life."
The researchers speculated that the< em>Candida dubliniensis overgrowth could be "associated with either altered immune responses or changes in the local environment," according to Medical News Today.
Candida albicans is a more commonly seen species in yeast infections. Candida dubliniensis, the species found in the mouths and throats of the schizophrenics in this study, has unique qualities that C. albicans does not have, according to information from Kenyon College. C. albicans cannot survive in the same temperature range that C. dubliniensis is capable of thriving in. The fungal species found in abundance in the mouths and throats of the mentally ill people in the study can still survive temperatures in the range of 25 to 37 degrees Celsius (77 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The more common fungal species could not thrive or survive very long in that cool climate.
This finding is interesting when viewed against a commonly cited research paper entitled, "A Biometric Study of the Relation between Oral and Rectal Temperatures in Normal and Schizophrenic Subjects." That paper deducted that schizophrenic patients may have a different heat regulating mechanism from mentally healthy people, according to Worcester State Hospital. It is also interesting given that a paper published in The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine stated definitively, "Schizophrenic patients should be examined for hypothyroidism," a condition which, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, can cause low body temperature.
A very interesting case study published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry tells the story of a 73-year-old woman who began having auditory and visual hallucinations. Her body temperature was 97.7. After she was found to have a case of a low functioning thyroid as well as white matter changes to her brain, she was given risperidone and a low-dose of thyroid medication. After a couple of weeks, her psychiatric symptoms disappeared, but two weeks later, she self-discontinued her risperidone. Though she only continued her thyroid medicine, her hallucinations never returned.
Another difference between the two types of yeast infections is that C. dubliniensis has an easier ability to build up resistance against azole drugs like fluconzazole, whereas C. albicans has more difficulty resisting this antifungal medication.
"Our results suggesting a link between microbiome diversity and schizophrenia require replication and expansion to a broader number of individuals for further validation," Keith Crandall, director of the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University, did mention. "But the results are quite intriguing and suggest potential applications of biomarkers for diagnosis of schizophrenia and important metabolic pathways associated with the disease."
Of course, complicating the matter is a recent finding that schizophrenia could be up to eight genetic diseases all grouped together under one diagnosis.
According to the press release from George Washington University, additional studies might be able to discover if the changes to the microbiome, including bacterial changes as well as candida differences, could be a cause of or the result of schizophrenia.
[Featured Photo: "Candida dubliniensis growing on ChromID Candida 2 Agar" by Nathan Reading]