Is Schizophrenia Caused By An ‘Insanity Virus’?

imagesIt’s a novel and chilling theory: we are all born with a brain-ravaging virus that invaded the human DNA millions of years ago. Our bodies work to contain it, but childhood infections such as the flu can allow HERV-W to become temporarily unleashed — the cause of schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis. Discovery reports:

Schizophrenia has long been blamed on bad genes or even bad parents. Wrong, says a growing group of psychiatrists. The real culprit, they claim, is a virus that lives entwined in every person’s DNA.

Schizophrenia is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25, but the person who becomes schizophrenic is sometimes recalled to have been different as a child or a toddler—more forgetful or shy or clumsy. Even more puzzling is the so-called birth-month effect: People born in winter or early spring are more likely than others to become schizophrenic later in life. It is a small increase, just 5 to 8 percent, but it is remarkably consistent, showing up in 250 studies. That same pattern is seen in people with bipolar disorder or multiple sclerosis.

“The birth-month effect is one of the most clearly established facts about schizophrenia,” says Fuller Torrey, director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “It’s difficult to explain by genes, and it’s certainly difficult to explain by bad mothers.”

The facts of schizophrenia are so peculiar, in fact, that they have led [a growing number of] scientists to abandon the traditional explanations of the disease and embrace a startling alternative. Schizophrenia, they say, does not begin as a psychological disease. Schizophrenia begins with an infection.

The idea has sparked skepticism, but after decades of hunting, Torrey and his colleagues think they have finally found the infectious agent. You might call it an insanity virus. If Torrey is right, the culprit that triggers a lifetime of hallucinations—that tore apart the lives of writer Jack Kerouac, mathematician John Nash, and millions of others—is a virus that all of us carry in our bodies. “Some people laugh about the infection hypothesis,” says Urs Meyer, a neuroimmunologist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. “But the impact that it has on researchers is much, much, much more than it was five years ago. And my prediction would be that it will gain even more impact in the future.”

The implications are enormous. Torrey, Meyer, and others hold out hope that they can address the root cause of schizophrenia, perhaps even decades before the delusions begin. The first clinical trials of drug treatments are already under way. The results could lead to meaningful new treatments not only for schizophrenia but also for bipolar disorder and multiple sclerosis. Beyond that, the insanity virus (if such it proves) may challenge our basic views of human evolution, blurring the line between “us” and “them,” between pathogen and host.

26 Comments on "Is Schizophrenia Caused By An ‘Insanity Virus’?"

  1. When I read this article I remembered this another article, very much related: http://www.skilluminati.com/research/entry/william_s_burroughs_on_the_virus_of_language/
    But I don’t completely agree with Burroughs. I believe this is the work of Lucifer. He taught us the language and knowledge made us violent and bitter. Etc.

  2. When I read this article I remembered this another article, very much related: http://www.skilluminati.com/research/entry/william_s_burroughs_on_the_virus_of_language/
    But I don’t completely agree with Burroughs. I believe this is the work of Lucifer. He taught us the language and knowledge made us violent and bitter. Etc.

  3. Seems I remember reading that the use of LSD by people in their teens and twenties could actually trigger latent or minor schizophrenic symptoms into a full blown manifestation of the condition. Possibly another area to be studied to see how it might inteeract with such a virus if it proves to be actual.

  4. Seems I remember reading that the use of LSD by people in their teens and twenties could actually trigger latent or minor schizophrenic symptoms into a full blown manifestation of the condition. Possibly another area to be studied to see how it might inteeract with such a virus if it proves to be actual.

  5. Maybe domesticated primates “us humans” are viruses and the Earth is constantly attempting to eradicate us all.

    I think, therefore I am strange.

    I. M. Strange

  6. Maybe domesticated primates “us humans” are viruses and the Earth is constantly attempting to eradicate us all.

    I think, therefore I am strange.

    I. M. Strange

  7. criterion | Dec 6, 2010 at 11:05 pm |

    A significant portion of psychiatrists do not publicly subscribe to the theory of “full-dimensional” schizotypy, let alone that such an analysis is supported by virology as a diagnostic vector. However it may reconcile those who support the biophysical neuro-chemistry “defective transmitter product” thesis with those that advocate full dimensional schizotypy manifesting in varying degrees in the individual.

    Although i suspect that this may simply be an attemt to sanction a new generation of antipsycotic medications that need to be taken on a permenant basis and so boost the profits of big-pharma. It remains to be seen how effective these treatments are and what duration they are “effective” for. As a “schizophrenic” myself i shall no doubt be coerced into these treatments in following years.

    Come back RD Laing, all is yet to be forgiven!

  8. criterion | Dec 6, 2010 at 7:05 pm |

    A significant portion of psychiatrists do not publicly subscribe to the theory of “full-dimensional” schizotypy, let alone that such an analysis is supported by virology as a diagnostic vector. However it may reconcile those who support the biophysical neuro-chemistry “defective transmitter product” thesis with those that advocate full dimensional schizotypy manifesting in varying degrees in the individual.

    Although i suspect that this may simply be an attemt to sanction a new generation of antipsycotic medications that need to be taken on a permenant basis and so boost the profits of big-pharma. It remains to be seen how effective these treatments are and what duration they are “effective” for. As a “schizophrenic” myself i shall no doubt be coerced into these treatments in following years.

    Come back RD Laing, all is yet to be forgiven!

  9. zombievirus | Dec 6, 2010 at 11:28 pm |

    the belief that we can find an easy single cause for schizophrenia such as a virus promotes a simplistic view of the condition, and does not fit the evidence of many studies on attachment style, social relationships, parenting etc. seeking to reduce something so complex to a simple biological factor is easy and convenient but not actually true.

  10. zombievirus | Dec 6, 2010 at 7:28 pm |

    the belief that we can find an easy single cause for schizophrenia such as a virus promotes a simplistic view of the condition, and does not fit the evidence of many studies on attachment style, social relationships, parenting etc. seeking to reduce something so complex to a simple biological factor is easy and convenient but not actually true.

  11. Johngault22 | Dec 7, 2010 at 12:04 am |

    Great article but why did you use “that” picture, you could of used a still from A Beautiful Mind or even One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest but no you go for The Shining, which plays to the myth that we are all violent psychopaths. Would you use a photo of a blacked up european when talking about African-Americans, I’m guessing you wouldn’t because it would be considered very offensive, well guess what I find the use of “that” picture to be extremely offensive, it is about time we started to educate you undiagnosed people what it really means to be mentally ill.

    – A Paranoid Schizophrenic, who hasn’t seriously hurt anybody since becoming ill.

  12. Johngault22 | Dec 6, 2010 at 8:04 pm |

    Great article but why did you use “that” picture, you could of used a still from A Beautiful Mind or even One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest but no you go for The Shining, which plays to the myth that we are all violent psychopaths. Would you use a photo of a blacked up european when talking about African-Americans, I’m guessing you wouldn’t because it would be considered very offensive, well guess what I find the use of “that” picture to be extremely offensive, it is about time we started to educate you undiagnosed people what it really means to be mentally ill.

    – A Paranoid Schizophrenic, who hasn’t seriously hurt anybody since becoming ill.

  13. We’re coming for you.

  14. CinemaParadiso | Dec 7, 2010 at 12:52 am |

    Parenting has soooooooooo much to do with it. Would doctors reveal this simple secret that your parent’s suck, join the mickey mouse club so do mine! Hell NO! What’s the difference between GOD and doctors? GOD doesn’t think he’s a doctor 🙂 Take away that 6 figure salary and ask them what inspired them to become doctors and voila… If our parents “set us strait” we would all need less doctors, drugs etc but unfortunately we don’t live in fairyland.

  15. CinemaParadiso | Dec 6, 2010 at 8:52 pm |

    Parenting has soooooooooo much to do with it. Would doctors reveal this simple secret that your parent’s suck, join the mickey mouse club so do mine! Hell NO! What’s the difference between GOD and doctors? GOD doesn’t think he’s a doctor 🙂 Take away that 6 figure salary and ask them what inspired them to become doctors and voila… If our parents “set us strait” we would all need less doctors, drugs etc but unfortunately we don’t live in fairyland.

  16. Limbotime | Dec 7, 2010 at 1:31 am |

    the cure for the common cold may have been discovered through the help of the schizophrenia bug. ask the red and blues.

  17. Limbotime | Dec 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm |

    the cure for the common cold may have been discovered through the help of the schizophrenia bug. ask the red and blues.

  18. Willybart3 | Dec 7, 2010 at 1:32 am |

    politics as usual.

  19. Willybart3 | Dec 6, 2010 at 9:32 pm |

    politics as usual.

  20. I don’t believe this…and neither do I!

  21. I don’t believe this…and neither do I!

  22. Hadrian999 | Dec 7, 2010 at 8:15 am |

    i always thought it was caused by 2 x chromosomes.

  23. Hadrian999 | Dec 7, 2010 at 4:15 am |

    i always thought it was caused by 2 x chromosomes.

  24. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person acts, thinks, and sees things in their daily life. Common signs include :
    Social withdrawal; Hostility or suspiciousness; Deterioration of personal hygiene; Flat, expressionless gaze; Inability to cry or express joy; Inappropriate laughter or crying; Depression; Oversleeping or insomnia; Odd or irrational statements; Forgetful; unable to concentrate; Extreme reaction to criticism; Strange use of words or way of speaking.
    What is schizophrenia disorder

  25. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder that affects the way a person acts, thinks, and sees things in their daily life. Common signs include :
    Social withdrawal; Hostility or suspiciousness; Deterioration of personal hygiene; Flat, expressionless gaze; Inability to cry or express joy; Inappropriate laughter or crying; Depression; Oversleeping or insomnia; Odd or irrational statements; Forgetful; unable to concentrate; Extreme reaction to criticism; Strange use of words or way of speaking.
    What is schizophrenia disorder

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