A study by the University of Utrecht has found that anti-inflammatory medicines can add to the effective treatment of schizophrenia.

In particular, aspirin, estrogens (in women) and the common antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (fluimicil) showed promising results.

Research has shown that the immune system is linked to certain psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Schizophrenia is known to be associated with reduced antioxidants in the brain as well as excess inflammatory markers. Animal models and clinical trials have shown the efficacy of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory drugs in reducing symptoms and preventing the progress of the condition if treated early.

But, this is the first conclusive study to prove the connection, said a university press release.

Schizophrenia affects around 26 million people worldwide but treatment has not changed much in over 50 years.

It largely relies on regulating dopamine levels in the brain and helping alleviate symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. However, it has not been able to address symptoms such as decreased energy, lack of motivation and poor concentration.

Recent research had found surprising results in treating schizophrenic mice with cancer drugs and found that it halted a process that affected neural connections.

The latest study proves that co-treatment with anti-inflammatory agents can improve the patient's response to treatment.

According to lead researcher, Professor Iris Sommer, Psychiatry Department, University Medical Centre, Utrecht, Netherlands, "The study makes us realise that we need to be selective about which anti-inflammatory we use. Now that we know that some effects are replicated, we need to refine our methods to see if we can turn it into a real treatment."

The work is being presented at the European College of Neuro-psychopharmacology conference in Berlin.