A new link has been found between the infection and brain problems.
Strep throat is more than just an annoying, painful infection, it turns out. If you leave it untreated, it can progress into rheumatic fever. This can cause irreversible damage to your heart valves. And now scientists are declaring the bacterial infection can also affect your brain.
A study completed by researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Psychology shows that a streptococcal infection can lead to compromised motor and mental functioning, including attention deficit disorder (ADD) and even obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
How? It’s all in the antibodies. As your body responds to the persistent infection and generates a strep antibody, this little guy goes on to bind itself to dopamine D1 and D2 receptors in the brain. And then the damage is caused.
“It’s almost impossible to show how strep can lead to OCD in humans,” says Prof. Daphna Joel . “But childhood seems to provide a distinct window of opportunity for the disorder to take root through strep infection,” she warns.
Does it happen to everyone? No. But it’s hard to tell if you’ll be in the clear or not, if infected. Experts suspect that strep-induced OCD is a problem in the developing world, where the infection often goes untreated.
In North America, some people are moving away from treating bacterial infections with antibiotics, in order to avoid contributing to the creation of super bugs. While superbugs are increasing in numbers, it’s a balancing act.
In the U.S, OCD affects up to 2% of all children and adolescents. Symptoms can include recurrent intense obsessions that can cause severe discomfort, anxiety and stress, and interfere with day-to-day functioning, says Joel.
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