Updated 05 March 2020

Infections more common in people with schizophrenia

A study suggests that individuals with schizophrenia have a higher prevalence of all types of severe infections compared to the background population.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that tends to manifest during people's late teens or early twenties. Those affected experience hallucinations, delusions and other cognitive problems.

Health24 previously reported that it is rare for a person to develop the disorder after the age of 45 as it usually appears at a young age.

People with schizophrenia may face major health problems as they are at a higher risk for serious infections, apart from the psychiatric illness already present, a new study suggests.

"The preliminary data results suggest that individuals with schizophrenia have higher prevalence of all types of severe infections compared to the average person," study author Monika Pankiewicz-Dulacz, from the University of Southern Denmark, and colleagues wrote.

Wide range of areas

"Clinicians should be aware that people with schizophrenia are the risk group for severe infections. General guidelines and suggestions regarding prevention of severe infections among schizophrenia patients are needed, and they should address a wide range of areas including hygiene, diet, activities, medications, treatment of comorbid [co-existing] conditions and vaccinations," the researchers concluded.

However, the study's findings only show a link between schizophrenia and certain infections, not a cause-and-effect relationship.

The researchers reviewed data from nearly 894 000 people in Denmark. Almost 8 000 from this group had schizophrenia. All of those in the study were born between 1975 and 1990.

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), there is an incidence of schizophrenia in 1% of people.

Increased risk of serious infection

The study authors found that the rate of infectious diseases was 36% among people with schizophrenia, compared to 25% for the general population.

The investigators also found that addiction and having other health problems were the most important factors associated with severe infection. Each one increased the risk of serious infection by 2.7 times in both people with schizophrenia and those in the general population.

People with schizophrenia were 63% more likely to suffer a serious infection than those in the general population, the researchers said.

Rates of specific severe infections among people with schizophrenia and those in the general population were:

  • HIV (0.2% vs. 0.05%),
  • Sepsis (0.7% vs. 0.3%),
  • Hepatitis (1.4% vs. 0.2%),
  • Skin infections (12% vs. 6%),
  • Tuberculosis (0.12% vs. 0.06%),
  • Gastrointestinal infections (8.7% vs. 6%),
  • Genital infections (2.6% vs. 1.5%),
  • Urologic infections (3.6% vs. 2%).

The researchers adjusted the data for other factors that might affect a person's risk of infection. They still found that people with schizophrenia had about twice the risk of skin, urological or genital infections, or tuberculosis than those in the general population.

Read more:

Causes of schizophrenia

Symptoms of schizophrenia

Epilepsy linked to schizophrenia


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