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  1. ITV Report

Schizophrenia 'could be down to antibodies attacking the brain', research suggests

Some psychosis patients may actually have an immune system disorder Credit: PA

Psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia may be linked to immune system disorders, research has found - opening up new avenues for treatment.

Scientists at the University of Oxford found that up to one in 11 patients may have developed psychosis as a result of a condition where antibodies attack the brain.

The nationwide study analysed blood samples from 228 people, with nine per cent testing positive for the relevant antibodies.

Lead researcher Prof Belinda Lennox, a clinical psychiatrist at the university, said the study could have major implications for treatments.

The implications of this are that there are patients in mental health services now who will have these antibodies and could potentially be treated in a very different way.

I think this is a really exciting advance for psychiatry as a whole, and every psychiatrist and patient with psychosis needs to be aware of this and to look for it and treat it assertively when we find it.

– Prof Belinda Lennox, University of Oxford told BBC

However, others treated the results with caution - voicing doubt that there could be thousands of people in institutions who have been misdiagnosed.

Josep Dalmau, from the University of Barcelona, was among those to express scepticism.

"The large majority of patients develop other symptoms, for example seizures or abnormal movements," he said.

"These usually bring the diagnosis to the doctors, so I think (considering) the number of patients you may have in a psychiatric institution with well-established psychotic disorder for several months or years, the likelihood they have these antibodies is extremely low."