How do infections lead to hallucinations?

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Offline joedeluco

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How do infections lead to hallucinations?
« on: 08/06/2010 11:30:02 »
Joe asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Hey Naked Scientists...

My mother was recently in the hospital and came down with a urinary tract infection. While she had it she was absolutely loony! She was Hallucinating, delusional and just not altogether there. 

She is better now, but I was wondering how such an infection can have such profound and odd symptoms?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 08/06/2010 11:30:02 by _system »

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Offline chris

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How do infections lead to hallucinations?
« Reply #1 on: 19/06/2010 11:09:45 »
Hi Joe

no one really understands this, but it's well known that infections can often present with confusion in elderly people. When an acutely-confused patient presents to a doctor, one of the first things we exclude is a covert infection, especially a urine infection. When this is treated with antibiotics the patients usually improve rapidly and are like a different person.

As I say, no one really understands this process but it might relate either to electrolyte disturbance, or through the production of inflammatory immune cytokines (hormones), which affect brain function as a consequence.

Chris
I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception - Groucho Marx