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Strep Linked to Neurological Conditions?

Researchers Say There May Be Link Between Strep Bacteria and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
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Weighing the Evidence

Pediatric OCD specialist Henrietta Leonard, MD, tells WebMD that she is convinced that strep infections can trigger OCD and tic disorders in some children. She has done research on the phenomenon and says it is not uncommon for her to find unidentified strep infections in kids with newly diagnosed OCD and tic conditions.

"When you see this all the time clinically you know that it is not a coincidence," she says. "People say this is still controversial, but there is now a fairly large body of literature supporting this link."

Leonard says that a child being evaluated for OCD or tic disorders should be given a throat culture to test for strep infection and should be treated with antibiotics if they are infected. She says she has seen improvements in OCD and tic symptoms in some of her own patients treated with antibiotics.

But she adds that only a small percentage of kids with OCDs and tic disorders seem to have strep infections.

"The hard part is figuring out which subgroup of kids with OCD and tics are strep related and which are not," she says.

Although the data support the existence of PANDAS, a direct link between strep infection leading to the neurological disorder in children is yet unproven, write the researchers.

Additional research is needed and should include an assessment of the interaction between genetics, strep infection, and risk of PANDAS.

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