Iron deficiency may alter dopaminergic transmission in the brain. This study investigated whether iron metabolism is associated with negative symptoms in patients with first-episode psychosis. The study enrolled 121 patients with first-episode schizophrenia spectrum disorder, whose duration of treatment was 2 months or less. Negative symptoms were measured using the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) and Clinician-Rated Dimensions of Psychosis Symptom Severity (Dimensional) scale of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Prominent negative symptoms were defined as moderate or severe negative symptoms on the Dimensional scale of the DSM-5. Iron deficiency was defined as a serum ferritin ≤ 20 ng/mL. Patients with iron deficiency were significantly more likely to have prominent negative symptoms (45.2 vs. 22.2%; p = 0.014) and a higher PANSS negative symptoms score (p = 0.046) than those with normal ferritin levels. Patients with prominent negative symptoms had significantly lower ferritin levels (p = 0.025). The significance of these results remained after controlling for the duration of illness and other confounding variables. Our finding of an independent association between iron deficiency and negative symptoms in patients at the very early stage of illness implies that iron dysregulation has an effect on negative symptoms in patients with schizophrenia. The possibility of therapeutic intervention with iron should be further investigated.
I have been argunig in this blog that there are high IRP1 levels in schizophrenia due to difficulties in iron-sulfur cluster formation whereby cytosolic aconitase switches to IRP1. As ferritin mRNA has an iron response element in the 5′ untranslated region high levels of IRP1 will decrease ferritin levels.