In 1998, Dr. Susan Swedo, a researcher at NIMH, first described in the scientific literature a subtype of OCD in which children demonstrated an abrupt onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms (OCD, tics, ADHD-like symptoms, anxiety) with a “saw-toothed” course, preceded by streptococcal infection. This syndrome was termed PANDAS, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. In PANDAS, the body’s immune system is over-reactive to strep bacteria, leading to psychiatric and neurological symptoms. Dr. Swedo continued to study this subgroup and investigated potential therapies, including intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), plasmapheresis, and antibiotic prophylaxis to prevent symptom exacerbations. PANDAS remained a little known and debated diagnosis.
Dr. Swedo, and more recently, other researchers as well, have dedicated themselves to understanding this phenomenon.