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Hope of treating schizophrenia by tackling immune system

Patients who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia might actually be suffering from ‘immune malfunctions’ and could be treated with immunotherapy.

Trials suggest one in 11 patients sectioned for psychosis could instead have auto-immune conditions, where rogue antibodies have affected their brains.

A ‘radical’ medical investigation led by an Oxford University professor found that several patients experienced a ‘dramatic, if not total, recovery’ with immunotherapy. The world’s first clinical trial to treat a mental illness in such a way has now begun.

Trials suggest one in 11 patients sectioned for psychosis could instead have auto-immune conditions, where rogue antibodies have affected their brains

Trials suggest one in 11 patients sectioned for psychosis could instead have auto-immune conditions, where rogue antibodies have affected their brains

Professor Belinda Lennox, a clinical psychiatrist at Oxford, will discuss her pioneering study in a BBC documentary to be shown tonight. Her team analysed blood from 228 people with ‘first-episode’ psychosis, 9 per cent of whom had antibodies potentially relevant to their illness. ]

It is believed antibodies, proteins that help the body fight infections and can arise from disorders such as arthritis, stick to receptors in the brain, affecting memory and triggering delusions and hallucinations.

Such patients could be ‘cured’ by flushing the antibodies out of their blood and suppressing their

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