Two antibodies in a sub-group of children experiencing their first episode of psychosis supports the “immune hypothesis” that autoimmunity plays a significant role in psychiatric disorders, according to a new study. Findings from the study are published in Biological Psychiatry.

Researchers from the Kids Research Institute at the Children’s Hospital, Westmead, and the University of Sydney identified antibodies to the dopamine (D2) receptor or the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptor in some children (eight out of 43) experiencing their first episode of psychosis. However, these antibodies were not detected in any of the 43 healthy children (P<0.001). Positive immunoglobulin binding to D2 receptor was found in three of 43 psychosis patients and to NMDA receptor in six of 43 patients.

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Study authors call out the need in psychiatry to establish biologically based disease subtypes to allow for more specific diagnosis and effective intervention. Findings from the study support the possibility that specific immune-mediated mechanisms detected may identify a a biological subgroup within psychosis. More research is needed to see whether immunosuppressants can treat children with these conditions.

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