Why we’re seeing more cases of autoimmune disorder PANDAS—if it even exists

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Child diagnosed with PANDAS. Image: Vanessa Baier

In 1998, Susan Swedo, then a pediatrician at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), first proposed PANDAS to explain an apparent association between strep throat, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and tic disorders such as Tourette syndrome. By Swedo’s estimate, the condition affects up to 1 in 200 children, but many experts contest that figure — and even the condition’s very existence.

PANDAS has attracted a vocal band of proponents who have proposed it as a catchall for a wide range of mental health issues sometimes lumped under the broader term ‘autoimmune encephalopathy.’ The list of purported triggers has grown from strep to include Lyme disease, mononucleosis and herpes. And the range of possible outcomes has expanded to encompass ADHD, anorexia nervosa and autism.

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[S]everal experts say the way it is being diagnosed and treated is worrisome. “Allow me to be considered a naysayer,” says Edward Kaplan, an expert in streptococcal infections at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He says there may be a neurological trigger for the behavioral changes in some children diagnosed with PANDAS, but the link to strep is tenuous at best. “This disease is diagnosed by all kinds of people more frequently than perhaps it should be.”

Read full, original post: How a controversial condition called PANDAS is gaining ground on autism

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