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Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is an evidence-based treatment program for people with severe mental illness developed in high-income countries. We report the first randomized controlled trial of ACT in mainland China.
Sixty outpatients with schizophrenia with severe functional impairments or frequent hospitalizations were randomly assigned to ACT (n = 30) or standard community treatment (n = 30). The severity of symptoms and level of social functioning were assessed at baseline and every 3 months during the 1-year study. The primary outcome was the duration of hospital readmission. Secondary outcomes included a pre-post change in symptom severity, the rates of symptom relapse and gainful employment, social and occupational functioning, and quality of life of family caregivers.
Based on a modified intention-to-treat analysis, the outcomes for ACT were significantly better than those of standard community treatment. ACT patients were less likely to be readmitted [3.3% (1/30) v. 25.0% (7/28), Fisher's exact test p = 0.023], had a shorter mean readmission time [2.4 (13.3) v. 30.7 (66.9) days], were less likely to relapse [6.7% (2/30) v. 28.6% (8/28), Fisher's exact test p = 0.038], and had shorter mean time in relapse [3.5 (14.6) v. 34.4 (70.6) days]. The ACT group also had significantly longer times re-employed and greater symptomatic improvement and their caregivers experienced a greater improvement in their quality of life.
Our results show that culturally adapted ACT is both feasible and effective for individuals with severe schizophrenia in urban China. Replication studies with larger samples and longer duration of follow up are warranted.
The microbiota-gut-brain axis and membrane dysfunction in the brain has attracted increasing attention in the field of psychiatric research. However, the possible interactive role of gut microbiota and brain function in the prodromal stage of schizophrenia has not been studied yet.
To explore this, we collected fecal samples and performed Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) scans in 81 high risk (HR) subjects, 19 ultra-high risk (UHR) subjects and 69 health controls (HC). Then we analyzed the differences in gut microbiota and choline concentrations in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC).
Presences of the orders Clostridiales, Lactobacillales and Bacteroidales were observed at increase levels in fecal samples of UHR subjects compared to the other two groups. The composition changes of gut microbiota indicate the increased production of Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs), which could activate microglia and then disrupt membrane metabolism. Furthermore, this was confirmed by an increase of choline levels, a brain imaging marker of membrane dysfunction, which is also significantly elevated in UHR subjects compared to the HR and HC groups.
Both gut microbiome and imaging studies of UHR subjects suggest the membrane dysfunction in the brain and hence might support the membrane hypothesis of schizophrenia.
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