In just the past twenty years or so, more research has emerged about infection triggered disorders and the underlying predispositions and genetic mutations. For example, two specific infection-triggered disorders have been identified: Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) and Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS). PANS is associated with a variety of different infections, whereas PANDAS is a disorder specifically associated with Group A streptococcal infections.
PANS and PANDAS appear in childhood, typically between the ages of 3 and 12. PANDAS is a relatively rare condition, believed to affect about one in 200 children. However, doctors may sometimes miss PANDAS diagnoses due to some of the common symptoms associated with the disease.
Both disorders are associated with an infection-triggered autoimmune response called “molecular mimicry.” That means organisms such as strep bacteria hide from the immune system by depositing molecules on their cell wall. In this way, they appear nearly identical to molecules found on the child’s heart, joints, skin, and brain tissues, allowing the strep bacteria to evade detection from the immune system for a long time. Eventually, however, the molecules on the strep bacteria are recognized as foreign to the body, and the child’s immune system reacts. Unfortunately, the deployed antibodies attack not only the strep molecules but also the host molecules in the child’s own tissues.