Are some cases of psychosis caused by microbial agents? A review of the evidence

R. H. Yolken, E. F. Torrey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

228 Scopus citations


The infectious theory of psychosis, prominent early in the twentieth century, has recently received renewed scientific support. Evidence has accumulated that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are complex diseases in which many predisposing genes interact with one or more environmental agents to cause symptoms. The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii and cytomegalovirus are discussed as examples of infectious agents that have been linked to schizophrenia and in which genes and infectious agents interact. Such infections may occur early in life and are thus consistent with neurodevelopmental as well as genetic theories of psychosis. The outstanding questions regarding infectious theories concern timing and causality. Attempts are underway to address the former by examining sera of individuals prior to the onset of illness and to address the latter by using antiinfective medications to treat individuals with psychosis. The identification of infectious agents associated with the etiopathogenesis of schizophrenia might lead to new methods for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of this disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-479
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 10 2008


  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Environmental
  • Genetic
  • Infectious
  • Schizophrenia
  • Toxoplasmosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Are some cases of psychosis caused by microbial agents? A review of the evidence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this