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Common Illness Can Cause OCD

Common Illness Can Cause OCD

While scientists have hypothesized that a connection between obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and childhood infections exists,  a team of researchers have now scientifically demonstrated that common strep can indeed lead to brain dysfunction and OCD.

Pediatricians have long warned about the risks of strep throat in children; strep throat can lead to problems with a child’s heart, joints or brain if left untreated. If the brain is involved, motor and mental functioning may be affected, leading to attention deficit disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Prof. Daphna Joel led the research at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Psychology, along with Lior Brimberg and Prof. Madelaine W. Cunningham (of the University of Oklahoma). The research, just presented at the 13th Congress of the European Federation of Neurological Societies in Florence, Italy, will be published by the beginning of next year.

Working with the world’s leading specialist in strep-related heart disease, Prof. Cunningham, the researchers designed a new animal model to demonstrate how exposure to strep affects the brain and leads to a number of physical and mental ailments

Most importantly, they found that the strep antibody binds itself to dopamine D1 and D2 receptors in the brain. This finding coincides with the fact that one of the main drugs for treating Sydenham’s Chorea (a motor disorder associated with strep) targets these same dopamine D2 receptors.

“We were able to show that these antibodies are binding to receptors in the brain and changing the way certain neurotransmitters operate, leading to brain dysfunction and motor and behavioral symptoms,” Prof. Joel says.

According to the press release for the study, OCD affects up to 2 percent of all children and adolescents in the U.S. The disorder is characterized by recurrent intense obsessions and/or compulsions that may cause severe discomfort, anxiety and stress, and interfere with day-to-day functioning.

Prof. Joel notes the importance of parents who notice signs of strep throat to ensure that their children get treated with the appropriate antibiotics in a timely fashion.

Read more: Children, Cold and Flu, Health, Mental Wellness, News & Issues, , ,

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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11:22AM PDT on Jun 25, 2011

Thank you

11:27PM PST on Feb 10, 2011

saved, shared.

4:52PM PST on Nov 9, 2010


12:19AM PST on Nov 9, 2010

Wow, I use to have OCD, and I also used to get strep VERY often... I'm not 100% sure they both were going on at the same time though. Very interesting to think about.

7:20AM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

Thank you for that enlightening information!

7:44PM PDT on Oct 28, 2010


9:04PM PDT on Oct 26, 2010

I had a major case of strep throat as a child... almost died. I don't have OCD, but I do suffer from clinical depression. Have any studies linked other mental illnesses (besides OCD) with strep?

12:21PM PDT on Oct 26, 2010

My gosh--this is really new information to me. One of my grandchildren was prone to getting strep throat.

10:20PM PDT on Oct 25, 2010

Some of us choose to embrace our OCD :) Stop raining on our parade.

6:54PM PDT on Oct 25, 2010

Thanks for posting. I had a cousin with OCD, but she had a number of medical issues as well.

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