Objective: The purpose of this study was to describe the clinical characteristics of a novel group of patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and tic disorders, designated as pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal (group A beta-hemolytic streptococcal [GABHS]) infections (PANDAS).
Method: The authors conducted a systematic clinical evaluation of 50 children who met all of the following five working diagnostic criteria: presence of OCD and/or a tic disorder, prepubertal symptom onset, episodic course of symptom severity, association with GABHS infections, and association with neurological abnormalities.
Results: The children's symptom onset was acute and dramatic, typically triggered by GABHS infections at a very early age (mean = 6.3 years, SD = 2.7, for tics; mean = 7.4 years, SD = 2.7, for OCD). The PANDAS clinical course was characterized by a relapsing-remitting symptom pattern with significant psychiatric comorbidity accompanying the exacerbations; emotional lability, separation anxiety, nighttime fears and bedtime rituals, cognitive deficits, oppositional behaviors, and motoric hyperactivity were particularly common. Symptom onset was triggered by GABHS infection for 22 (44%) of the children and by pharyngitis (no throat culture obtained) for 14 others (28%). Among the 50 children; there were 144 separate episodes of symptom exacerbation; 45 (31%) were associated with documented GABHS infection, 60 (42%) with symptoms of pharyngitis or upper respiratory infection (no throat culture obtained), and six (4%) with GABHS exposure.
Conclusions: The working diagnostic criteria appear to accurately characterize a homogeneous patient group in which symptom exacerbations are triggered by GABHS infections. The identification of such a subgroup will allow for testing of models of pathogenesis, as well as the development of novel treatment and prevention strategies.