ImmunoPsychiatry – evidence from large-scale studies to detailed clinical studies

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Monday 26 September 2022 (12:00-13:00)

Stacey Smith

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Institute for Mental Health

Utilizing Danish nationwide registers we have consistently displayed that infections and autoimmune diseases increases the risk of developing severe mental disorders in a dose-response relationship, where the risk of severe mental disorders particularly increases with the number of infections exposed to and in a temporal manner. Utilizing large national biobank data, we have shown a small immunogenetic contribution with moderate correlation between the genetic susceptibility for infections and mental disorders. Moreover, at diagnosis there are elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the blood and studies on the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain have shown some evidence for elevated immune markers in the CSF and signs of disrupted blood-brain barrier in some of the patients. Interestingly, our meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials have shown that anti-inflammatory treatment seems to be effective for depression and depressive symptoms and to some extent also for psychotic disorders. However, studies identifying subgroups that would be most likely to respond to immune modulating add-on treatment are still warranted to pave the field forward.

About the Speaker

Professor Michael E. Benros, MD, PhD, is chief physician and head of research on Biological and Precision Psychiatry at the Mental Health Centre Copenhagen, Copenhagen University Hospital and at the University of Copenhagen. He got his medical degree and PhD at Aarhus University and conducted his psychiatric and neurological residencies at the Copenhagen University Hospitals. He has received a number of awards, including the prestigious Sapere Aude Research Leader award from the Independent Research Fond Denmark and the Highly Cited Researcher from Clarivate. He has served on several editorial boards, scientific advisory committees and is a board member of the Psychiatric Immunology Section of the World Psychiatric Association and of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP). He is recognized internationally for his ongoing involvement in clinical and epidemiological research into mental health, being at the forefront of the emerging field of ImmunoPsychiatry and Precision Psychiatry. He now leads a sizable effort to disentangle the role of the immune system in the development of severe mental disorders, combining immune exposures from the nationwide Danish registers, with immunogenetic investigations, and novel research on cerebrospinal fluid and blood obtained from biobank and clinical studies of patients with psychotic and affective disorders also utilizing omics and systems biology approaches. Furthermore, he is heading the Precision Psychiatry Initiative, utilizing the wealth of Danish nationwide data available that can now be analyzed with novel methods as machine learning approaches, aiming at paving the way for more precise diagnostics and new treatment targets for mental disorders.

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