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Mol Psychiatry. 2016 Dec;21(12):1696-1709. doi: 10.1038/mp.2016.3. Epub 2016 Feb 23.

A meta-analysis of blood cytokine network alterations in psychiatric patients: comparisons between schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior, Augusta University, Augusta, GA, USA.


Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder (MDD) have all been associated with aberrant blood cytokine levels; however, neither the pattern of cytokine alterations nor the impact of clinical status have been compared across disorders. We performed a meta-analysis of blood cytokines in acutely and chronically ill patients with these major psychiatric disorders. Articles were identified by searching the PubMed, PsycInfo and Web of Science, and the reference lists of these studies. Sixty-eight studies met the inclusion criteria (40 schizophrenia, 10 bipolar disorder and 18 MDD) for acutely ill patients. Forty-six studies met the inclusion criteria (18 schizophrenia, 16 bipolar disorder and 12 MDD) for chronically ill patients. Levels of two cytokines (interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α)), one soluble cytokine receptor (sIL-2R), and one cytokine receptor antagonist (IL-1RA) were significantly increased in acutely ill patients with schizophrenia, bipolar mania and MDD compared with controls (P<0.01). Following treatment of the acute illness, IL-6 levels significantly decreased in both schizophrenia and MDD (P<0.01); sIL-2R levels increased in schizophrenia; and IL-1RA levels in bipolar mania decreased. In chronically ill patients, the levels of IL-6 were significantly increased in schizophrenia, euthymic (but not depressed) bipolar disorder and MDD compared with controls (P<0.01). The levels of IL-1β and sIL-2R were significantly increased in both chronic schizophrenia and euthymic bipolar disorder. Overall, there were similarities in the pattern of cytokine alterations in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and MDD during acute and chronic phases of illness, raising the possibility of common underlying pathways for immune dysfunction. Effects of treatment on cytokines were more robust for schizophrenia and MDD, but were more frequently studied than for acute mania. These findings have important implications for our understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of major psychiatric disorders.

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