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Researchers pursue red flag for schizophrenia relapse
Date:8/6/2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. Blood levels of a protein that helps regulate inflammation may also serve as a red flag for relapse in some schizophrenia patients, researchers said.

"There are no good, objective measures of treatment efficacy or indicators for relapse," said Dr. Brian Miller, a psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University.

Researchers hope monitoring levels of interleukin-6 can fill that gap for a population in which more than half of patients don't take their medications as prescribed, often because of side effects. The relapse rate is about 80 percent within two years in patients who don't take their medication properly and about half that in those who do, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

"We hope the upshot of our studies will lead to new treatment approaches and strategies for care," Miller said, including the kind of personalized, multi-drug therapies that are becoming the standard for controlling other chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. "We want to attack the disease from as many directions as possible."

To get a better handle on how IL-6 levels correspond to disease status, they are looking at levels in blood samples taken multiple times over several years in 305 patients enrolled in a study comparing injectable to oral medication. They also are taking one-time measurements in 80 healthy controls and comparing those to levels in 240 patients who are acutely ill, stable outpatients or stable outpatients who smoke marijuana, a drug commonly abused by patients. While many previous studies have excluded drug abusers, marijuana may increase inflammation, so they want to explore the relationship between IL-6 levels and its use, Miller said.

Miller received a five-year, $920,000 National Institute of Mental Health Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award to measure IL-6 levels as
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@georgiahealth.edu
706-721-4421
Georgia Health Sciences University
Source:Eurekalert  

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