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Peripheral low-grade inflammation in depression is increasingly seen as a therapeutic target. We aimed to establish the prevalence of low-grade inflammation in depression, using different C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, through a systematic literature review and meta-analysis.
We searched the PubMed database from its inception to July 2018, and selected studies that assessed depression using a validated tool/scale, and allowed the calculation of the proportion of patients with low-grade inflammation (CRP >3 mg/L) or elevated CRP (>1 mg/L).
After quality assessment, 37 studies comprising 13 541 depressed patients and 155 728 controls were included. Based on the meta-analysis of 30 studies, the prevalence of low-grade inflammation (CRP >3 mg/L) in depression was 27% (95% CI 21–34%); this prevalence was not associated with sample source (inpatient, outpatient or population-based), antidepressant treatment, participant age, BMI or ethnicity. Based on the meta-analysis of 17 studies of depression and matched healthy controls, the odds ratio for low-grade inflammation in depression was 1.46 (95% CI 1.22–1.75). The prevalence of elevated CRP (>1 mg/L) in depression was 58% (95% CI 47–69%), and the meta-analytic odds ratio for elevated CRP in depression compared with controls was 1.47 (95% CI 1.18–1.82).
About a quarter of patients with depression show evidence of low-grade inflammation, and over half of patients show mildly elevated CRP levels. There are significant differences in the prevalence of low-grade inflammation between patients and matched healthy controls. These findings suggest that inflammation could be relevant to a large number of patients with depression.
Schizophrenia is associated with impaired neurodevelopment as indexed by lower premorbid IQ. We examined associations between erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), a marker of low-grade systemic inflammation, IQ, and subsequent schizophrenia and other non-affective psychoses (ONAP) to elucidate the role of neurodevelopment and inflammation in the pathogenesis of psychosis.
Population-based data on ESR and IQ from 638 213 Swedish men assessed during military conscription between 1969 and 1983 were linked to National Hospital Discharge Register for hospitalisation with schizophrenia and ONAP. The associations of ESR with IQ (cross-sectional) and psychoses (longitudinal) were investigated using linear and Cox-regression. The co-relative analysis was used to examine effects of shared familial confounding. We examined mediation and moderation of effect between ESR and IQ on psychosis risk.
Baseline IQ was associated with subsequent risk of schizophrenia (adjusted HR per 1-point increase in IQ = 0.961; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.960–0.963) and ONAP (adjusted HR = 0.973; 95% CI 0.971–0.975). Higher ESR was associated with lower IQ in a dose-response fashion. High ESR was associated with increased risk for schizophrenia (adjusted HR = 1.14; 95% CI 1.01–1.28) and decreased risk for ONAP (adjusted HR = 0.85; 95% CI 0.74–0.96), although these effects were specific to one ESR band (7–10 mm/hr). Familial confounding explained ESR-IQ but not ESR-psychoses associations. IQ partly mediated the ESR-psychosis relationships.
Lower IQ is associated with low-grade systemic inflammation and with an increased risk of schizophrenia and ONAP in adulthood. Low-grade inflammation may influence schizophrenia risk by affecting neurodevelopment. Future studies should explore the differential effects of inflammation on different types of psychosis.
To identify developmental sub-groups of depressive symptoms during the second decade of life, a critical period of brain development, using data from a prospective birth cohort. To test whether childhood intelligence and inflammatory markers are associated with subsequent persistent depressive symptoms.
IQ, a proxy for neurodevelopment, was measured at age 8 years. Interleukin 6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein, typical inflammatory markers, were measured at age 9 years. Depressive symptoms were measured six times between 10 and 19 years using the short mood and feelings questionnaire (SMFQ), which were coded as binary variable and then used in latent class analysis to identify developmental sub-groups of depressive symptoms.
Longitudinal SMFQ data from 9156 participants yielded three distinct population sub-groups of depressive symptoms: no symptoms (81.2%); adolescent-onset symptoms (13.2%); persistent symptoms (5.6%). Lower IQ and higher IL-6 levels in childhood were independently associated with subsequent persistent depressive symptoms in a linear, dose–response fashion, but not with adolescent-onset symptoms. Compared with the group with no symptoms the adjusted odds ratio for persistent depressive symptoms per s.d. increase in IQ was 0.80 (95% CI, 0.68–0.95); that for IL-6 was 1.20 (95% CI, 1.03–1.39). Evidence for an association with IL-6 remained after controlling for initial severity of depressive symptoms at 10 years. There was no evidence that IL-6 moderated or mediated the IQ-persistent depressive symptom relationship.
The results indicate potentially important roles for two distinct biological processes, neurodevelopment and inflammation, in the aetiology of persistent depressive symptoms in young people.
Accumulating evidence indicate a role for the immune system particularly inflammation and autoimmunity in the aetiology of major psychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. In this paper, we discuss some of the key advances in immunopsychiatry in order to highlight to psychiatrists and other health professionals how an increased understanding of this field might enhance our knowledge of illness mechanism and approaches to treatment. We present a brief overview of clinical research that link inflammation and autoimmunity with depression and psychosis, including potential role of inflammation in treatment response, current evidence for the effectiveness of immune-modulating treatment for depression and psychosis, and possible role of inflammation in common physical comorbidities for these disorders such as coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus. Gaining a better understanding of the role of immune system could be paradigm changing for psychiatry. We need collaborations between clinicians and scientists to deliver high-quality translational research in order to fully realise the clinical potential of this exciting and rapidly expanding field.
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