Biological link sought to mental illness
March 29, 2005

NEW YORK, Mar 29, 2005 (UPI) -- An increasing number of U.S. researchers are searching for links between viral and other infectious diseases and mental disorders, such as autism and depression.

The theory is that viruses and bacteria that assault the immune system might also assault the brain.

For example, Susan Swedo, a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, documented the sudden onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette's syndrome in some children who suffered strep throat.

Another study by Columbia University and health maintenance organization Kaiser Permanente examined influenza in pregnant women as a risk factor for the development of schizophrenia in their children, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

If mental illnesses are confirmed to have biological roots, mental health advocates say it might lessen the stigma currently attached to mental disorders.