(09/17/12) - A sore throat could be the beginning of a journey into mental illness for some children. It sounds unbelievable, but a form of step is being linked to some cases of childhood psychological disorders.
Madeline Greenstein is back to being a happy, outgoing 6 year old.
"She's kind of like the life of the party," her mother, Megan, says.
But she says, just a year ago, three strep infections in three months led to some strange behavior. "She would start asking me questions and I would have to answer them in a specific way."
Madeline says her anxiety turned into constant fear. "I think about scary stuff and then I get scared."
Within two months, Megan says her daughter went from bad to terrible. "Crying hysterically over nothing.Hhigh pitch laughing like what you would hear in a mental institute."
Madeline was suffering what is called PANDAS, believed to be caused by a strep infection, says Dr. Michael Jenike, "the key is the psychiatric symptoms just start overnight."
Jenike, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, says the body's immune system usually makes antibodies to attack the infection, but with PANDAS, the antibodies seem to attack part of the brain.
That, in turn, can lead to the sudden onset of OCD, separation anxiety, anorexia, bed-wetting, tics or the worsening of motor skills and handwriting.
"I now hear and see patients all the time who have these kinds of sudden onset illnesses. We put them on antibiotics and the illnesses clear up in a week or two," Jenike says.
Without antibiotics, Jenike adds, "this could be a trouble throughout their whole life."
After Madeline started taking antibiotics, her mother says, the results were immediate. "I feel like we're on our path to recovery."
PANDAS is just starting to be understood. It is not known how many children have developed psychiatric illnesses because of it. For more information visit http://ocfoundation.org/default.aspx?id=2529&terms=pandas
ABC12 Main Station