An old medical case has sparked new interest in a connection between strep throat to other conditions.
One night in 2013, 10-year-old Hans Korbmacher woke up and was not himself; he became agitated, chewed on his tongue, and threw his hands over his head. Two weeks later, it happened again; the normally calm child became volatile and anxious. Hans was aware that something was wrong and pleaded with doctors to help him.
A psychiatrist later suggested that Hans’ symptoms stemmed from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Further digging led to the discovery of a rare form of OCD: pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. In short, “PANDAS.”
This is a scary find seeing how almost all children will have strep throat at one time or another in their life. But in some children, a faulty immune response to an infection can accidentally attack brain cells, causing behavior that is not normal. It is unknown why so few children develop this and what part of the brain cells are being attacked.
Recently there has been more commonality between people’s body reactions to infections and changes in mental health. The link between the two is really intriguing to scientists and they believe if they can uncover this connection, detecting and treating these conditions would soon follow.
Currently there is not a lab test available to detect PANDAS. It isn’t even listed in the psychiatrist’s book of mental disorders. Based on research, they feel there are five pieces of criteria needed to determine if PANDAS is prevalent or not. They include:
- Obsessions, compulsions, and tics are present
- Symptoms begin abruptly and continue to return
- Symptoms begin before puberty
- Separation anxiety, aggression, and sensory sensitivities become normal
- Associated with strep infections
Research and studies will continue to see if PANDAS is a viable disorder or not. There have not been many cases, so it has been hard to make comparisons, but it’s something that should not be ignored.