Jekyll, Hyde and a Poorly Chosen Acronym
By E.M. Wollof from SLN More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the A New Itch Blog Series
Ok, here's a good one: On the big toe, middle of a meeting where taking off a shoe would most definitely get you "eliminated," a furious itch that will not go away no matter how many times you scrunch up your toes...boom. Welcome back fellow scratchers! Let's get down to it...
Imagine, if you will, picking up a nasty case of strep-throat. I know this may not seem like the best lead in for an imaginary situation, but stick with me. You pick up this case of nasty, start taking the usual treatments, and are anxiously awaiting getting back to school or work. You lay your head down to rest the night before going back to the "grind," not knowing that in the morning your life will be forever changed. As you wake up the next morning, you look around and realize that you no longer feel the comfort of your bed nor the security of your room, you are deathly afraid of how dirty everything is and how it makes you feel, you need to sterilize your own skin for fear of it being contaminated and unable to be cleansed.
Sound like an impossible nightmare straight out of a Robert Louis Stevenson novella? Think again my friends. A sixth grader in California experienced this very occurrence. This sudden-onset mental illness is called pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcus, or PANDAS. This extremely poorly chosen name describes those (mostly children) who develop an obsessive compulsive disorder within days or weeks of developing a simple infection.
A Controversial Diagnosis
The absolutely weird illness was first identified in the early '90s and has been pretty heavily debated in the medical community for years. The rash of cases over the last couple of years has given rise to much more research and the theory that some psychiatric illnesses can be triggered by ordinary infections and the bodies immune response. While the theory still remains unproved, the idea that some psychiatric cases could be "cured" by eliminating the infection is certainly exciting.
The research has begun to show some psychiatric cases coming from infections other than strep, mononucleosis and a type of pneumonia caused by a germ called a mycoplasm. The real rub in all this research comes when the data shows an extremely small percentage developing a psychiatric disorder after having an infection like those listed above. Let's face it, not every child who catches strep develops life crippling OCD the next morning. So, while the discovery of this linkage may offer insight into one of the causes of some psychiatric disorders, this is hardly the end of a very long road to further understanding these illnesses.
One thing that can be said about all of this though, the next time you hear about someone you know picking up strep throat, or any other of the mentioned infections, you may experience one of the, "my friend just got bit by a zombie moments" where you never know when they are going to turn...
See you next week...