It’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:
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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.