Recent Blog Articles

Harvard Health Blog

Infection, autoimmune disease linked to depression

June 17, 2013
  • By Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

About the Author

photo of Patrick J. Skerrett

Patrick J. Skerrett, Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

Pat Skerrett is the editor of STAT's First Opinion and host of the First Opinion podcast. He is the former editor of the Harvard Health blog and former Executive Editor of Harvard Health Publishing. Before that, he was editor of … See Full Bio
View all posts by Patrick J. Skerrett


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


Imran Khan
August 1, 2013

OCD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia , bipolar disorder are all triggered by infections , these are all autoimmune diseases and thus can be treated effectively with antibiotics.
This research has been reported by CIDPUSA in their book flame within and patients reversed with the use of Vibramycine.

June 25, 2013

Thank you for this article – it’s an area that requires greater awareness. I had a streptococcus overgrowth and developed panic disorder and OCD. Treatment with erythromycin has helped and I was totally symptom free for 6 months. It has now returned (confirmed with strep blood and stool testing) and so now I return to erythromycin again to get the strep under control. Importantly, adults can experience this, it is not just children with PANDAS.

This book makes for gripping reading by the way: Brain-Fire-My-Month-Madness

June 20, 2013

Antibiotics can alter gene expression too, by reducing the gut bacteria that produce HDAC-i compounds known to affect gene transcription. These don’t change the genetics, but they can awaken a silenced gene.

June 19, 2013

it cannot be denied that if we don’t care how we living, we would get many health problems. It’s better to have more healthy diet and more exercise in order the body keep to health 🙂

June 18, 2013

my observation is, that whenever I have some even minor general viral infection (usually with some bone aches, a cold, not necessarily a fever, but nevertheless a sense of being affected in the whole body with some kind of virus, my mood gets often into a depression, as if the virus also attacks the brain in a way.
Viruses generally do lead to an increase of the cytocine y-Interferon.
y-Interferon is also used for the treatment of Hepatitis C, which has the common very well known side effect of depression. Many Hep C treated patients also pass some time on a psychatric ward due to depression as a side effect of y-Interferon. I assume there is a similar connection between common viral diseases, increase of y-interferon and depression.

Paulette Provost
June 17, 2013

Interesting hypothesis however, my family has a history of generational depression. Suicide, bipolar, depression that has resulted in self medicating i.e. alcoholism and drug abuse. I think that there are several causes of depression and mental disorders. Having said that, thank you for your continuing endeavors in medical research.

June 17, 2013

Paulette, Many infections can be passed in utero to the baby. Also, many infections can be transmitted to family members due to their close living situation. This could explain why many families have a history of depression.

There are many infections that can alter neuronal gene expression – which would explain the genetic component.

Commenting has been closed for this post.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.