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August 1995

Mitogen-Stimulated Interleukin-2 Production in Never-Medicated, First-Episode Schizophrenic PatientsThe Influence of Age at Onset and Negative Symptoms

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry (Drs Ganguli, Brar, Chengappa, Yang, Shurin, and Rabin and Ms DeLeo) and Pathology (Drs Ganguli and Rabin), University of Pittsburgh (Pa) School of Medicine, and the Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Center (Drs Ganguli, Brar, Chengappa, Yang, Shurin, and Rabin), Pittsburgh.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1995;52(8):668-672. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1995.03950200058014

Background:  Decreased interleukin-2 (IL-2) production is characteristic of active autoimmune diseases and has previously been reported in patients with schizophrenia. We attempted to replicate this finding in never-medicated schizophrenic patients and examine the possible correlation between IL-2 production and clinical variables.

Methods:  The production of IL-2 was measured in equal numbers (N=33) of DSM-III-R—diagnosed schizophrenic patients and controls who were matched for age, race, and gender. Patients were also assessed for positive, negative, and depressive symptoms.

Results:  The production of IL-2 was significantly lower in patients than in controls. There was a significant positive correlation between IL-2 production and age at onset, and significant negative correlation between IL-2 production and negative symptom scores. In multivariate analyses, the predictive power was stronger for age at onset than for negative symptoms. Positive or depressive symptoms were unrelated to IL-2 production.

Conclusions:  Our finding of low IL-2 production in neuroleptic-naive schizophrenic patients confirms that this finding is not confounded by medications. The correlation of low IL-2 production with younger age at onset suggests that this may be a marker for a subtype of the illness or for severity.