A research team comprising scientists from the USA and Chile has conducted a comprehensive study to identify a potential link between throat microbiome and Schizophrenia.
Microbiome is defined as the collective microorganisms in a said environment. The microorganisms could include bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. Some scientists define microbiome as the sum of all genetic material of all microbes in an environment. The surge of research on the human microbiome has shown a role played by the microbial population in the overall health of an individual. For example, the human gut is also referred to as the “second brain” and the gut bacteria are reported to influence mood. Increasingly, it is believed by scientists that microbiomes could help classify individuals and ascertain disease risks based on the classification.
The research being reported here investigated whether the throat microbiome was different between individuals without and with Schizophrenia. For the analyses, oropharyngeal (throat) microbiome of 16 control and 16 Schizophrenic individuals were compared. The results showed that, compared to control samples, the Schizophrenic throat microbiome samples:
- Differed significantly in their microbial population
- Were more abundant in certain types of microbes that inhabit the throat microbiome
- Were more abundant in microbes that are common in immune-compromised individuals (Example, Lactic acid bacteria, fungal species like Candida dubliniensis, etc.)
- Showed different microbial metabolic pathways
The lead author of the study, Dr. Eduardo Castro-Nallar, says in the Public Release by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, "The oropharynx of schizophrenics seems to harbor different proportions of oral bacteria than healthy individuals. Specifically, our analyses revealed an association between microbes such as lactic-acid bacteria and schizophrenics."
The study raises several possibilities. Whether the differences in the composition of the throat microbiome in Schizophrenic individuals are the cause or result of Schizophrenia remains to be determined. Nevertheless, the findings may provide healthcare professionals a handle to diagnose and/or treat Schizophrenia in the future.