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Elevated levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines are consistently reported in schizophrenia (SZ) and bipolar-I disorder (BD), as well as among individuals who have been exposed to childhood trauma. However, higher levels of inflammatory markers in these disorders are yet to be investigated with respect to levels of exposure to different types of childhood trauma.
Participants were 68 cases with a diagnosis of schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder (SZ), 69 cases with a diagnosis of psychotic BD and 72 healthy controls (HC). Serum levels of interleukin 6 (IL-6), tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and C-reactive protein (CRP) were quantified, and childhood trauma exposure was assessed with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire.
The SZ group had significantly higher levels of IL-6, TNF-α and CRP when compared with the HC group (all p < 0.05, d = 0.41–0.63), as well as higher levels of TNF-α when compared with the BD group (p = 0.014, d = 0.50); there were no differences between the BD and HC groups for any markers. Exposure to sexual abuse was positively associated (standardised β = 0.326, t = 2.459, p = 0.018) with levels of CRP in the SZ group, but there were no significant associations between any form of trauma exposure and cytokine levels in the HC or BD groups.
These results contribute to the evidence for a chronic state of inflammation in SZ but not BD cases. Differential associations between trauma exposure and levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines across the diagnostic categories suggest that trauma may impact biological (stress and immune) systems differently in these patient groups.
This study aimed to explore effects of adjunctive N-acetylcysteine (NAC) treatment on inflammatory and neurogenesis markers in unipolar depression.
We embarked on a 12-week clinical trial of NAC (2000 mg/day compared with placebo) as an adjunctive treatment for unipolar depression. A follow-up visit was conducted 4 weeks following the completion of treatment. We collected serum samples at baseline and the end of the treatment phase (week 12) to determine changes in interleukin-6 (IL6), C-reactive protein (CRP) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) following NAC treatment.
NAC treatment significantly improved depressive symptoms on the Montgomery–Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) over 16 weeks of the trial. Serum levels of IL6 were associated with reductions of MADRS scores independent of treatment response. However, we found no significant changes in IL6, CRP and BDNF levels following NAC treatment.
Overall, this suggests that our results failed to support the hypothesis that IL6, CRP and BDNF are directly involved in the therapeutic mechanism of NAC in depression. IL6 may be a useful marker for future exploration of treatment response.
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