Strep may be causing much more than a sore throat among children. The powerful bacteria could be triggering a host of neurological problems from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to nervous tics, anorexia, and hyperactivity, some scientists believe. Millions of US children develop strep throat each year, and most cases are quickly cleared up with antibiotics, notes the Wall Street Journal. But some kids suffer "Pandas" (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus). "Parents have used the word 'possessed,' " says one doctor. "Their sweet, wonderful child turns into a monster seemingly overnight."
Physicians aren't on the same page when it comes to the startling phenomenon. "There's definitely something going on with these kids, but right now, you could walk into one doctor's office and they could be a believer and move forward with treatments, and some would not," says a Manhattan child psychiatrist. Some scientists believe the extreme reaction may be triggered by a genetic predisposition to mount an unusual immune response when exposed to the strep bacteria. Studies have shown that strep antibodies bind to brain cells and can cause excess dopamine production, which is often linked to neurological problems. (Read more pandas stories.)