MULTICENTER STUDY
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Clinical presentation of pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections in research and community settings.

BACKGROUND: The first cases of pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS) were described >15 years ago. Since that time, the literature has been divided between studies that successfully demonstrate an etiologic relationship between Group A streptococcal (GAS) infections and childhood-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and those that fail to find an association. One possible explanation for the conflicting reports is that the diagnostic criteria proposed for PANDAS are not specific enough to describe a unique and homogeneous cohort of patients. To evaluate the validity of the PANDAS criteria, we compared clinical characteristics of PANDAS patients identified in two community practices with a sample of children meeting full research criteria for PANDAS.

METHODS: A systematic review of clinical records was used to identify the presence or absence of selected symptoms in children evaluated for PANDAS by physicians in Hinsdale, Illinois (n=52) and Bethesda, Maryland (n=40). RESULTS were compared against data from participants in National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) research investigations of PANDAS (n=48).

RESULTS: As described in the original PANDAS cohort, males outnumbered females (95:45) by ∼ 2:1, and symptoms began in early childhood (7.3±2.7 years). Clinical presentations were remarkably similar across sites, with all children reporting acute onset of OCD symptoms and multiple comorbidities, including separation anxiety (86-92%), school issues (75-81%), sleep disruptions (71%), tics (60-65%), urinary symptoms (42-81%), and others. Twenty of the community cases (22%) failed to meet PANDAS criteria because of an absence of documentation of GAS infections.

CONCLUSIONS: The diagnostic criteria for PANDAS can be used by clinicians to accurately identify patients with common clinical features and shared etiology of symptoms. Although difficulties in documenting an association between GAS infection and symptom onset/exacerbations may preclude a diagnosis of PANDAS in some children with acute-onset OCD, they do appear to meet criteria for pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS).

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