Research Article| Volume 34, ISSUE 11, P773-780, December 01, 1993

Schizophrenia, narcolepsy, and HLA-DR15, DQ6

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      A strong association between HLA-DR2, DQ1 and narcolepsy-cataplexy has been known since 1986. In 1990 a subdivision (HLA-DR15, DQ6) was shown to be equally associated. Narcolepsy symptoms include rapid eye movement (REM)-sleep intrusion hallucinations during the day. Some narcoleptics may be so hallucinated that they become delusional and receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Fifty-six inpatient schizophrenics and 56 normal controls were compared to see if there was an excess of the narcolepsy-associated antigens (NAA) among schizophrenics. Patients had frequency of the NAA 3.89 times higher than controls. After a subset was studied by night (n = 9) and day (n = 7) polysomnography, two patients were found to be true narcoleptics. Their psychosis improved with treatment for narcolepsy. When NAA(+) and NAA(−) schizophrenics were compared, the NAA(+) subgroup had significantly higher Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS) scores and more hospitalizations. There were no effects attributable only to gender or race. We conclude that narcolepsy can simulate schizophrenia in some cases, and that even in nonnarcoleptic patients, the HLA-DR15, DQ6 antigens mark a group of severe schizophrenics that merits further study.


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