Background: Palatal petechiae are 95% specific for streptococcal pharyngitis. Despite this, and despite prior research demonstrating that Group A Streptococcus (GAS) is a common antecedent to pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS) episodes, we anecdotally observed a low rate of documented GAS in patients with PANS and palatal petechiae. This retrospective chart review was conducted to formally report the rate of palatal petechiae and concurrent GAS in a cohort of patients with PANS and investigate other etiologic factors.
Methods: The clinical notes of 112 patients seen at the Stanford PANS Clinic who met PANS research criteria were reviewed for mention of palatal petechiae. The medical records of patients who demonstrated palatal petechiae on physical examination were reviewed for signs of infection, a clinical history of trauma, and laboratory results that could indicate other causes of petechiae.
Results: Twenty-three patients had documented palatal petechiae on physical examination (ages 5-16, 13/23 [57%] male). Fifteen patients had a rapid GAS test and GAS culture in the Stanford PANS clinic, all with negative results. Evidence of recent GAS infection was found in 8/23 (32%) patients (elevated GAS titers [n = 6] or documentation of a positive rapid GAS test at another facility [n = 2]), one of whom also had potential herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection. One patient had potential HSV infection and recent palatal trauma. No patients had thrombocytopenia. 14/23 (61%) of patients with palatal petechiae had no discernable cause of petechiae. 10/19 (53%) of patients had antihistone antibodies.
Conclusions: Despite the established relationship between palatal petechiae and GAS, no patient with palatal petechiae in our clinic tested positive for GAS and only 32% had evidence of recent GAS. Most did not have an identifiable cause for the palatal lesions. This finding suggests the potential for alternative causes of palatal petechiae or undetectable GAS in our patient population. The high prevalence of palatal petechiae without GAS infection suggests that the pathogenesis of PANS is multifactorial and may involve disruption or inflammation of the microvasculature. Additional research is needed to further elucidate these findings.
Keywords: PANS; child; group A streptococcus; infection; petechiae; youth.