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Mental illness `a virus'.

Byline: JOHN VON RADOWITZ

STRONG evidence emerged yesterday that a virus which invaded the human genome millions of years ago may cause schizophrenia.

Scientists found the molecular fingerprint of the retrovirus in fluid from brains and spinal cords of patients with the mental illness.

About 30 per cent of people with acute schizophrenia, and seven per cent of those with a chronic form of the disease, had the retrovirus signature.

There was no sign of it in the cerebrospinal fluid taken from healthy in- dividuals.

Schizophrenia affects about one in 100 people and may cause distorted thinking, intense moods, delusions and halluci- nations.

Scientists found that certain retroviruses could become integrated in human DNA and pass from one generation to the next, evolving with their host over millions of years.

These are known as endogenous retroviruses.

Yesterday's findings provide the best evidence yet that a member of an endogenous retrovirus family plays an important role in schizophrenia.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 10, 2001
Words:157
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