Psychiatry News

Studies indicate that some mental illnesses can be triggered by an immune response

Childhood disorder prompts study of infection link to mental illness

PANDAS disorder yields possible link to immune system

05/Dec/2011

Childhood disorder prompts study of infection link to mental illness

Cases of children suddenly exhibiting obsessive-compulsive disorder after strep has led to studies that reinforce the belief that some mental illnesses can be triggered by an immune response.

Following a bout with strep throat, a sixth grader suddenly found himself in constant fear of germs and disease everywhere. He became obsessed with cleaning and washing his hands, a disorder known as PANDAS (pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcus). New research is now pointing ato the possibility that ordinary infections and the body's normal immune response can lead to some psychiatric illnesses response, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.

"The whole area of mental illness caused by infections is being looked at more closely because of PANDAS," says Dr. Michael A. Jenike, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the International OCD Foundation's scientific advisory board. "If you can prevent lifelong suffering by using antibiotics or some acute intervention, that would be huge."

The possibility of this link is prompting new research into connections between infection and other disorders, such as autism, schizophrenia and anorexia.

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