My son had a throat infection… a week later he developed OCD
A mother has revealed how her 11-year-old son developed a severe case of obsessive compulsive disorder just a week after he had strep-throat.
Brody Kennedy, from Castaic, California, had been eager to rejoin his class mates after missing a few days of school to convalesce, his mother Tracy said.
But shortly afterwards he became paranoid about germs and refused to touch things. He showered several times a day and wouldn”t go to school in case he caught something. He is now home-schooled by his mother.
11 year-old Brody Kennedy suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He may have an autoimmune disorder, PANDAS, that caused the mental illness
Brody even refused to wear clothes unless they were microwaved and often wore only a sheet.
“He washed his hands over and over,” Ms Kennedy told the LA Times.
“He had never been like this before. Ever. He just woke up with it.”
As far-fetched as it sounds, a 2009 study from Columbia University found that some cases of OCD could be caused by the body”s attempt to attack a virus that causes one in ten throat infections.
The antibodies that are made to attack the bacteria also zero in on the brain, causing changes in behaviour. It raises the possibility that OCD can be caught rather than being a purely psychological condition.
It also supports the existence of paediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder or PANDAs, which Brody was eventually diagnosed with.
Theillness marked by a sudden onset of symptoms following an infection is poorly understood by doctors and there is no test to help them diagnose it.
If the link is proven, it could lead to new treatments for the condition that affects up to three per cent of the population.
Brody started to wash his hands several times a day after becoming obsessed with germs (file picture)
The 2009 study was one of the first to suggest the streptococci bugs that cause many sore throats play a role.
What is OCD
Symptoms of OCD vary but may include repeated hand-washing or cleaning, the need to check doors are locked orgadgets switched off and the arranging of items in a specific order.
Current treatments include counselling and anti-depressants but these don”t work for everyone.
Celebrity OCD sufferers include David Beckham, Paul Gascoigne, Harrison Ford, Emily Lloyd, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder.
Despite OCD affecting up to two million people in Britain alone, its causes are largely a mystery.
Injecting mice with the germs behind “strep throat” led to them developing repetitive actions similar to sufferers of OCD, the journal Molecular Psychiatry reports.
Tests showed that antibodies-against the bug had made their way to the part of the brain that control compulsions, movement and anxiety.
When the scientists, from Columbia University in New York, removed some of the antibodies and injected them into healthy mice, their behaviour also changed.
Although the experiments were in mice, the researchers believe they may also apply to people, and particularly children.
They believe some may be genetically programmed to make the wrong immune response to the strep throat bug.
Other factors, including exposure to pesticides, may help tip the balance.
Finding a drug that mops up the rogue antibodies, or dampens down the immune response, could help treat OCD. With other conditions, including autism and anorexia, having also been linked to rogue immune responses, the study could have broad implications.
It is unclear just how many cases of OCD have their roots in strep throat. But researcher Columbia University Mady Hornig believes the bug may be behind up to a third of cases in which sufferers also have some traits of autism or hyperactivity.
She adds that taking antibiotics for strep throat – and finishing the course – may cut the odds of further problems.
Current treatments, such as counselling and anti-depressants, do not work for everyone, and many patients suffer side effects from the drugs.