Prenatal infection is associated with brain structural and functional abnormalities and may increase the risk for psychosis through a direct effect on neurodevelopment. Various infections may exert their effect through a proinflammatory immune response but studies of prenatal maternal inflammatory markers and offspring neurodevelopment are scarce. Using the longitudinal Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986 study, we examined the associations of maternal prenatal C-reactive protein (CRP) levels with psychosis risk factors in adolescent offspring. CRP was measured in maternal sera collected in pregnancy. In offspring, school performance was measured at age 7 years, while school performance, psychotic experiences, and cannabis use were measured at age 16 years. We tested associations of CRP with offspring measures using regression analysis controlling for offspring sex, maternal education level, and prenatal maternal body mass index, smoking and alcohol use in pregnancy, place of birth, maternal psychiatric admission, paternal psychiatric admission, mothers age at birth, and gestational week of CRP sample. We also tested if adolescent cannabis use mediated the associations between maternal CRP and offspring outcomes. Controlling for covariates, maternal CRP was associated with academic performance at age 16 years (beta = .062, 95% CI = 0.036-0.088), but not with possible psychotic experiences at 16 years (odds ratio [OR] = 1.09, 95% CI = 0.96-1.24). Maternal CRP was also associated with adolescent cannabis use (OR = 1.24, 95% CI = 1.07-1.43). These findings suggest that prenatal inflammation may influence later mental illness risk by affecting neurodevelopment and also indirectly by increasing the risk of exposure to cannabis.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center.