Fictional television detective Adrian Monk (on the show Monk) had one of the most severe cases of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) you will probably ever see. On the Big Bang Theory, Sheldon also has OCD tendencies, like knocking three times in succession. Although most with OCD are not as extreme as these two, the condition can be very aggravating to both the patient and those around them.

According to some studies, some OCD may be caused by a bacterium. The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health set out to find out just how many with OCD are caused by bacteria, and are trying to test to see if antibodies will help to cure it, especially how well IVIG, a human antibody treatment used to dampen autoimmune reactions, reverses the syndrome.

Scientists believe the “strep throat” bacteria, Streptococcus, the cause of scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, strep throat and other infections enters the immune system by producing surface proteins that imitate human proteins, and fooling the blood/brain barrier that serves to protect the brain from invasion of toxic bacteria. The immune system eventually unmasks the identity thieves and produced antibodies to the proteins, but these antibodies can then attack other tissue in the body, including the heart, joints and brain.

In children, it was found out several years ago that this attack on the brain can inflame the basal ganglia in the brain, and may bring on a syndrome whose symptoms called “Sydenham’s chorea (SD).”

SD affects girls more often than boys, and usually occurs between the ages of 5 and 15. Rapid, irregular and aimless involuntary movements of the arms, legs, body and face characterize it. Some children will have a sore throat several weeks before the symptoms begin, but the disorder can occur up to six months after the infections or fever has cleared. Symptoms can come on all or once, or gradually with stumbling or slurred speech, and muscle weakness. The random, writhing movements of chorea are caused by an autoimmune reaction to the bacterium that interferes with the normal function of a part of the brain that controls motor movements (the basal ganglia). 

Most children will recover completely from SD, although a small number may continue to have disabling and ongoing chorea, even with treatment. In a third of the children SD will recur, usually around 1 ½ to 2 ½ years after the initial attack.  Researchers have found an association between recurrent SD and the later development of the abrupt onset forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, tic disorders, and autism, which they call PANDAS, for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus infection. 

Note: The LeRoy High School girls who have come down with a mysterous disease that exhibits itself in the form of ticks and involuntary movement may be cause by the SD bacteria, as noted in the video.

Further studies are needed to determine the nature of the association and the biological pathways that connect streptococcal infection, autoimmune response, and the later development of these specific behavioral disorders.


About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory expert. As a memory speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.



New Scientists – Bacteria Could Be Significant Cause of OCD: