Does saliva play a role in schizophrenia?

An important biomarker that identifies acute stress in schizophrenia patients may shed more light on the mental health condition.

Several lines of evidence have shown that kynurenic acid (KYNA), which is detected in saliva, has a link to schizophrenia, researchers wrote in JAMA Psychiatry. Stress is an important factor when looking at the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and stress also plays a role in the production of KYNA, they explained.

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"The finding that KYNA levels are elevated in a subset of individuals with schizophrenia who have a poor capacity for tolerating stress suggests the kynurenine pathway may be involved in the mechanisms by which stress contributes to the development of psychosis," Dr. Chiappelli, of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a Medscapearticle on the study.

Saliva levels measured in both schizophrenia and control patients

Participants in the study included 64 individuals with schizophrenia and 64 healthy control patients.

All participants were given computer-based stress challenges that involved drawing and math tasks.

Researchers measured the subjects' KYNA levels through saliva samples at regular intervals.

Schizophrenia patients showed higher levels of salivary KYNA, and those patients who failed to complete the tasks or became stressed by the tasks had significantly higher levls of KYNA than people who finished the tasks.

"Distress intolerance is more common in patients with schizophrenia. Patients with this behavioral phenotype have elevated salivary KYNA levels," the researchers wrote.

As a behavior-related biomarker, KYNA levels may indicate a way to measure the stress response in schizophrenics, they concluded.

Source: Medscape
Image courtesy of Mantas Ruzveltas/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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