A probiotic strategy for antipsychotic-induced metabolic dysfunction

Schizophrenia is a mental illness associated with psychosis and is treated with antipsychotic medication. These medications are very effective; however, they cause side-effects that impact people’s physical health. Substantial body weight gain occurs in up to half of people during long-term antipsychotic treatment. Antipsychotics can also increase the glucose (sugar) and lipid (fat) levels in the blood, and the ones that do this the most, tend to be the same ones that cause the most weight gain. People taking antipsychotics regard weight gain as one of the most distressing side-effects caused by their medication. This weight gain often leads people to stop taking their antipsychotic treatment with a risk of their psychosis returning. People with psychosis die 15-20 years earlier than the general population. The leading cause of 'years of life' lost in this population is poor physical health. Heart disease and metabolic disorders e.g. diabetes and raised cholesterol are 1.4-2 fold more common in this population. Being overweight increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and developing many physical illnesses and cancers. Furthermore, being overweight and experiencing psychosis are associated with reduced self-esteem, reduced quality of life, and stigma.

In a previous study by our research team, we found that a bacteria found in the gut of healthy individuals, Bifidobacterium longum APC1472, could prevent obesity in mice treated with an antipsychotic. A second study conducted by our research team with people who were overweight or obese found that this type of bacteria, possibly a new probiotic, improved sugar levels. We are now looking to examine the impact of this probiotic on the weight, blood sugars, and wellbeing of people treated with antipsychotic medication. Having access to a probiotic capsule that alleviates the most distressing side-effects of antipsychotic medications will greatly benefit people who need these medications.

Award Date
01 July 2022
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor John Cryan
Host Institution
University College Cork
Investigator Led Projects