It’s an odd and terrifying phenomenon: Seemingly overnight, a child begins to show extreme symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and nerve trouble, from tics to excessive fears.
A hypothesis, controversial but long gathering steam, proposes that this sudden-onset syndrome could be the result of a strep infection, which triggers antibodies that mistakenly attack part of the brain. The syndrome was originally called PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infection — but has now been broadened beyond strep to PANS, or Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. Federal research authorities have just put out a release (below) describing the state of the scientific consensus on PANS and a clinical trial using immune-based therapy now under way.
I wrote about PANDAS way back in 2003 for the Boston Globe. The story began:
KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine – Sammy Jelin, math whiz and natural comedian, sailed through fifth grade, a school enthusiast eager for the bus each morning. By the start of sixth grade last fall, he could barely make it to school at all: In just weeks, his world had turned into a minefield of germ phobias, invisible walls, and constant tics – hallmarks of obsessive compulsive disorder and Tourette’s syndrome. Continue reading