Can Strep Throat Lead to Behavior Problems?By THE NEW YORK TIMES
Can a bout of strep throat lead to serious behavioral problems like obsessive hand washing or odd tics in children?
The condition, known as Pandas, for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infection, remains a controversial topic among child health experts. Dr. Robert King and Dr. James Leckman of the Yale Child Study Center, who recently joined the Consults blog to answer readers’ questions about Tourette’s syndrome, here respond to readers concerned about the link between strep tics and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
RS from N.J. writes:
If your child shows symptoms of a tic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder or Tourette’s syndrome, you should have them checked for strep. Pandas, could be the cause. A simple blood test will tell if your child’s “strep titers” are at an abnormal level.
This can be treated with antibiotics. Worth checking out before you subject your child to psychiatric medications. Not all doctors believe in Pands. But let me tell you, it’s worth finding a doctor who does.
For more info check out the Web site Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Got O.C.D.
Bethany Brinton from Salt Lake City asks:
The first sign of scarlet fever is obsessive hand washing, hours before the rash; Tourette’s is in the strep/O.C.D. family, or Panda. Why don’t they treat it with I.V. antibiotics and probiotics?
Dr. King and Dr. Leckman respond:
Pandas, or pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections, remains a controversial topic for many experts in Tourette’s.
Two recently completed intensive longitudinal studies found little evidence to support the existence of Pandas as presently defined. Since the onset of tics is common in middle childhood and as many as half of young school age children may have strep throat in a given year, the co-occurrence of new tics and a strep infection will happen as mere coincidence, without any specific causal link, in a certain number of children.
Furthermore, since stress, including the stress of illness, can be a cause of tic flare-ups, it is not always clear if or when there is a more specific causal link.
That said, some researchers, including ourselves, suspect that the label of Pandas is probably best reserved for a subset of children with apparently strep-related O.C.D. or tics, and that it is this subset of cases that need to be more intensively studied. Such cases probably fall on a continuum with Sydenham’s chorea and other post-infectious disorders that can lead to an inflammation in the basal ganglia, a part of the brain involved in motor control and learning.
These more narrowly defined Pandas cases appear to have an abrupt sudden onset, over the course of two days or less, and are marked by separation anxiety and obsessive-compulsive symptoms, a loss of writing skills and sleep problems. Tics are often present, but they can also confuse the picture, especially if they had been present in some form prior to Pandas onset.
The overuse of antibiotics has its hazards, both for individuals and communities, including allergic reactions and fostering the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Hence, antibiotics — and certainly intravenous antibiotics — are not indicated for the typical case of tic disorder but should be reserved for cases where there is clear-cut and convincing evidence that the onset or recurrent flare-up of tics/O.C.D. is linked to strep infection.
Although there is at least one well done study that supports the use of intravenous immunoglobulin for well-defined Pandas cases, this work needs to be replicated. Plans are now under way for such a replication study in a carefully defined group of children who meet the narrower criteria described above; the study will again be performed at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., by Dr. Susan Swedo, who first coined the term Pandas more than a decade ago.
mlw from Brooklyn asks:
What percentage of children could be misdiagnosed as Tourette’s and actually have Pandas?
Dr. King and Dr. Leckman respond:
Another great question. Once we have a reliable and valid way of making a diagnosis of Pandas, we should be able to provide an answer.
As noted above, there is much controversy as to whether Pandas exist and, if so, how should they be defined. At present, in making a Pandas diagnsosis, we focus much more on the sudden, abrupt onset — unusually in less than 48 hours — of severe anxiety, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, sleep problems and behavioral regression and a marked deterioration of writing and drawing abilities. Tics may be present, but they are probably not a key feature.