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.