Background: The current diagnostic criteria for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with group A streptococcal infection (PANDAS) are pediatric onset, neuropsychiatric disorder (obsessive-compulsive disorder [OCD]) and/or tic disorder; abrupt onset and/or episodic course of symptoms; association with group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal (GABHS) infection; and association with neurological abnormalities (motoric hyperactivity or adventitious movements, including choreiform movements or tics).
Objective: To assess new-onset PANDAS cases in relation to acute GABHS tonsillopharyngitis.
Design: Prospective PANDAS case identification and follow-up.
Results: Over a 3-year period (1998-2000), we identified 12 school-aged children with new-onset PANDAS. Each patient had the abrupt appearance of severe OCD behaviors, accompanied by mild symptoms and signs of acute GABHS tonsillopharyngitis. Throat swabs tested positive for GABHS by rapid antigen detection and/or were culture positive. The GABHS serologic tests, when performed (n = 3), showed very high antideoxyribonuclease antibody titers. Mean age at presentation was 7 years (age range, 5-11 years). In children treated with antibiotics effective in eradicating GABHS infection at the sentinel episode, OCD symptoms promptly disappeared. Follow-up throat cultures negative for GABHS were obtained prospectively after the first PANDAS episode. Recurrence of OCD symptoms was seen in 6 patients; each recurrence was associated with evidence of acute GABHS infection and responded to antibiotic therapy, supporting the premise that these patients were not GABHS carriers. The OCD behaviors exhibited included hand washing and preoccupation with germs, but daytime urinary urgency and frequency without dysuria, fever, or incontinence were the most notable symptoms in our series (58% of patients). Symptoms disappeared at night, and urinalysis and urine cultures were negative.
Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study to confirm that PANDAS is associated with acute GABHS tonsillopharyngitis and responds to appropriate antibiotic therapy at the sentinel episode.