Rachel pointed me a recent article about the possibility that schizophrenia may be caused by a virus. Pretty weird, eh? But wait, there’s more. The virus might actually be part of everyone’s DNA (called a Human Endogenous RetroVirus) but something around birth triggers it since babies born in winter are more likely to develop schizophrenia. But the bizarreness is not over yet. According to the article the same retrovirus (HERV-W) is also active in people with MS. The article claims that we have over 100,000 retrovirus sequences in our DNA making up over 40%. According to another source 8 percent of our genome is retrovirus DNA, but another 42% is made of retrotransposons. My mind is still boggling.
Naturally, I began to wonder if retroviruses are involved in rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. However, according to two articles, of which I only read the abstracts, that does not seem to be the case. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. A newer study, however, “showed significant increases in HERV-K (HML-2) gag activity in RA patients”. I’m quite interested in the last article, but unfortunately the full text won’t be available until June of 2011, and I don’t think CEU subscribes to Clinical and Experimental Immunology. Nevertheless, I have added some further reading to my kindle.
If anyone knows of related articles (particularly longer, and targeted at a lay audience) I would be very happy to hear about then. Or if you have access to the journals and want to send me the full text of some of the articles that would be great too.