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Strep, Psychiatric Symptoms Possibly Linked in Some Children

New research suggests that strep infections in children may increase involuntary movements and disruptive behaviors associated// with some psychiatric disorders.

In an eight-month study of 693 children in a Florida public school system, University of Florida researchers found that shortly after the number of strep infections in the group increased, there was a corresponding rise in involuntary movements and disruptive behaviors — symptoms that could indicate a neurological cause.

“During the fall months when there are more strep infections, after a short time lag, there are increased behavioral symptoms — enough to indicate an association,” said Tanya Murphy, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry in the College of Medicine. “We did not assess the children for particular neuropsychiatric disorders, so we’re not saying actual disorders were present in the children, but the symptoms were there.”

The research adds weight to the existence of PANDAS, short for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus. Some scientists think a host of problems such as tics, personality change, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder may be triggered by strep infections in some children.

Scientists suspect group A streptococcal infections — the kind that cause strep throat in some people but occur without symptoms in others — may cause the body’s immune system to interact with brain cells that cause psychiatric symptoms in a small percentage of young patients.

In findings published this month in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry, UF researchers describe how they found an association between strep infections and neuropsychiatric symptoms within a group of students in a Florida school system. Previously, research in the PANDAS field focused on children already diagnosed with psychiatric disorders.

“We were looking for patterns of association in just a standard group of childr
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