Plasma homocysteine levels in young male patients in the exacerbation and remission phase of schizophrenia

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High levels of homocysteine (Hcy) were suggested to contribute to the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Recent investigations have shown that treatment with folic acid, vitamin B-12 and pyridoxine are effective in reducing Hcy levels while concomitantly reducing the score of positive and negative symptoms in schizophrenic patients. In addition to the availability of nutrients (mainly folate, vitamins B6 and B12), plasma Hcy concentrations are dependent on complex metabolic regulation that could be disrupted in schizophrenia.

This study was designed to test the influence of disease activity on plasma Hcy levels. Plasma Hcy concentrations were measured in male chronic schizophrenic patients with a predominantly positive (SCH (+)) or predominantly negative (SCH (−)) syndrome in schizophrenia immediately upon admission to the hospital (exacerbation phase) and one month later (remission phase). During this period patients received antipsychotic medications without vitamin therapy. The effects of age, duration of illness, folate and B12 concentrations, as well as smoking and coffee consumption habits on the observed changes were evaluated. Age- and sex-matched subjects were included in the control group. In the control group plasma Hcy concentration was 8.75 ± 1.84 μmol/L. In the exacerbation phase plasma Hcy concentrations were significantly increased both in SCH (+) (14.91 ± 6.19 μmol/L) and SCH (−) groups (12.8 ± 3.27 μmol/L). There was no difference in plasma Hcy concentrations between SCH (+) and SCH (−) patients. Serum folate and B12 concentrations were not significantly different in any of the investigated groups of subjects. The plasma Hcy concentrations could not be correlated with age, duration of illness, the score of positive symptoms or the concentration of folate and vitamin B12. A positive correlation was found between plasma Hcy level and score of negative symptoms in both groups of patients. No correlation was found between smoking or coffee consumption habits and plasma Hcy concentrations. All patients exhibited decreased plasma Hcy levels in the remission phase of the illness, with a mean decrease of 2.68 ± 1.57 μmol/L. Folate and B12 levels did not differ in the exacerbation and remission phases of the illness.

The significant decrease of plasma Hcy levels, without changes in folate and vitamin B12 concentrations in the remission phase of schizophrenia, could indicate an influence of a pathogenetic process involved in schizophrenia on Hcy metabolism.

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