NEW YORK — Strep throat might trigger some childhood cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder, suggesting penicillin could help some kids with the psychiatric condition, a researcher says.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD, have unwanted thoughts such as fear of contamination or impending harm, and often perform rituals like excessive handwashing or counting. They know the rituals are senseless, but they can’t help themselves.
About 1 percent of grade-school-age children have OCD, said Dr. Susan E. Swedo, acting scientific director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md. Overall, about 2 percent of the United States population has OCD, she said.
Nobody knows what percentage of childhood cases may be linked to strep throat, Swedo said this week. But the theory is that blood proteins called antibodies that are supposed to latch onto strep germs may trigger OCD by mistakenly attacking certain parts of the brain.