The Economist has spoken to parents who say their children have been committed to mental-health services against their will, or removed from their care altogether. According to testimony provided in Parliament, one doctor told a child that he would not treat “an American illness". In 2019 several dozen children with PANDAS and PANS were discharged from a British hospital.
Their parents were told they had a “functional neurological disorder"—a diagnosis that has evolved from the old (and discredited) idea of hysteria, and which some doctors joke grimly means “finding no diagnosis". Exactly why the diagnosis is controversial remains unclear. After all, the idea that the aftermath of an infection can cause psychiatric symptoms is not new.
Sydenham’s chorea, in which patients suffer from jerky movements of the face and body, is likewise the result of a streptococcal infection. The Economist contacted a number of psychiatrists and professional bodies for comment. Some did not reply.
Others said they were unable to offer any comment. The Royal College of Psychiatrists said it was struggling to find an available spokesperson. But as evidence accumulates that PANS and PANDAS are real, attitudes are beginning to shift.
Scientists who study the disorder now believe it is caused by an auto-immune reaction, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks brain tissue. After infection with Streptococcus, the theory goes, children begin producing antibodies that cause inflammation in their own brains, which in turn causes the psychiatric symptoms. In 2018 Christopher Pittenger, a psychiatrist at Yale University, and his colleagues extracted antibodies from the blood of children with PANDAS and introduced them into laboratory. Read more on livemint.com