Exposure to herpes simplex virus, type 1 and reduced cognitive function.

 Herpes simplex virus, type 1 (HSV-1) causes cold sores, keratitis and rarely, fatal encephalitis. The infection is lifelong, with sensory ganglia serving as reservoirs of latent infection. Recently, exposure to HSV-1 has also been repeatedly associated with reduced cognitive function among healthy individuals without prior encephalitis. Though HSV-1 does not elevate risk for schizophrenia (SZ) per se, exposure is likewise associated with impaired cognitive functions among SZ patients. The range of cognitive changes observed in HSV-1 exposed persons has not been investigated systematically, nor is it known whether interaction between HSV-1 exposure and SZ related factors contributes to the impairment among SZ patients. Persons with or without schizophrenia/schizophreniform disorder (N = 298 total, DSM IV criteria) were assessed for HSV-1 exposure using serum HSV-1 antibody titers. The Penn Computerized Neurocognitive battery was used to assess eight cognitive domains with respect to accuracy and speed. There were no significant case-control differences in HSV-1 exposure. The SZ/schizophreniform disorder cases were significantly impaired in all cognitive domains compared with the controls. HSV-1 exposure was also associated with reduced cognitive function in the entire sample, but the magnitude of the effects and their patterns differed from the SZ related changes. Further, statistically significant interactions between HSV-1 exposure and SZ case status were not detected. HSV-1 exposure does not elevate risk for SZ, but it is associated with reduced function in specific cognitive domains regardless of SZ diagnostic status. An 'epidiagnostic' model for the association is proposed to explain the results.

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