How common infections can cause psychiatric illness in children and why doctors don't believe it

How common infections can cause psychiatric illness in children and why doctors

It was a sunny day in September 2007 when Garrett Pohlman, then seven years old, came home from school. Crying, he would warn his mother that the electricity was coming out of the electrical outlets in the house. If they went outside the house, he was afraid that the birds would kill them both. These utterances were accompanied by strange facial movements. The boy was sticking his tongue out and waving his arms and legs. The day before, Garrett had been a normal boy. Today there was paranoia.

Yes Garrett was lucky. A scan revealed a bacterial sinus infection. Antibiotics cured the infection and brought about a marked improvement in his psychiatric symptoms. Garrett suffered from Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus.

Many other children are not so lucky and have suffered long-term damage. Simply put, Garrett's disturbing behavior was the result of a weakened immune system after an infection with group A Streptococcus, a common bacteria.

Many doctors still do not believe that a bacterium can cause psychiatric problems.

Very few countries provide guidelines for its diagnosis or treatment. Diana Pohlman, Garrett's mother, says she is tired of campaigning for doctors to take the disease seriously.

This is changing. Scientists have begun to study it. About half of pediatricians said they had never heard of the disease. Nearly one in five of the parents surveyed said their pediatrician thought the diagnosis was questionable.

Body and mind

This ignorance has costs. In many countries, children with this problem are misdiagnosed.

These can include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and sensory processing disorders. Children may be given inappropriate medications such as antipsychotics, many of which have unpleasant side effects and do nothing to treat the cause of their illness.

In some cases parents have been accused of inventing or instigating their children's illness.

Saktësisht pse diagnoza është e diskutueshme mbetet e paqartë. Në fund të fundit, ideja se pasojat e një infeksioni mund të shkaktojnë simptoma psikiatrike nuk është e re. Korea e Sydenham-it, në të cilën pacientët vuajnë nga lëvizjet e mprehta të fytyrës dhe trupit, është rezultat i një infeksioni streptokoksik. The Economist kontaktoi një numër psikiatërsh dhe organesh profesionale për koment. Disa nuk u përgjigjën. Të tjerë thanë se nuk ishin në gjendje të komentonin.

Pas infektimit me Streptococcus, sipas teorisë, fëmijët fillojnë të prodhojnë antitrupa që shkaktojnë inflamacion në trurin e tyre, i cili nga ana tjetër shkakton simptoma psikiatrike.

A paper by Dritan Agalliu (probably Albanian), a neurologist at Columbia University, currently under review by a scientific journal, suggests that blocking a particular part of the immune system - a type of lymphocyte called T helper cells 17 - with drugs anti-inflammatory reduces brain damage.