Gut flora

Scientists Find Physiological Markers for Depression and Schizophrenia

Neuroscientists say they’ve developed a blood test that could help with early diagnosis of depression and schizophrenia. They published their results in the journal Experimental Physiology.

The group of symptoms collectively known as “depression” may result from a variety of causes. Recent studies have linked the illness to genetics, physical differences in the brain, and even an imbalance of gut bacteria. But regardless of what causes it, speedy detection is the key to treatment. Early diagnosis may be even more important in schizophrenia; one 2004 report found that the later a person was diagnosed, the more severe their symptoms would be, and the less responsive they’d be to treatment.

One potential pathway to diagnosis could be a protein called N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR). Brain scans of people with schizophrenia have shown lower-than-average…

Common fungus may raise asthma risk

Pichia fungus
NOT SO FUN The fungus Pichia (shown), a type of yeast, is linked to kids’ likelihood of developing asthma, new research shows.

BOSTON — A fungus among us may tip the body toward developing asthma.

There’s mounting evidence that early exposure to microbes can protect against allergies and asthma (SN Online: 7/20/16). But “lo and behold, some fungi seem to put kids at risk for asthma,” microbiologist Brett Finlay said February 17 at a news conference during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Infants whose guts harbored a particular kind of fungus — a yeast called Pichia — were more likely to develop asthma than babies whose guts didn’t have the fungus, Finlay reported. Studies in mice and people suggest that exposure to some fungi can both trigger and exacerbate asthma, but this is the first work linking asthma to a fungus in the gut microbiome of infants.

Finlay, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and his colleagues had recently identified four gut bacteria in Canadian infants that seem to provide asthma protection. To see if infants elsewhere were similarly protected by such gut microbes, he…