Strep and OCD? The fumblings of science.

Sometimes knowledge and certainty is not easy to come by.

You may have seen a recent breakfast piece in the USA, about a boy who had OCD (quite severe) but it turned out to be the consequence of a strep sore throat. Sep 24th, see the OCD video here.

His mother Beth Alison Maloney wrote a book about the journey back to wellness, Saving Sammy: Curing the Boy Who Caught OCD.

It’s a powerful story, not least because Sammy could have been a prisoner for life of this dreadful incapacitating condition; but by chance his mother hit on the cure, when the family doctors missed it.

I believe in all cases of so-called mental illness, doctors MUST look for physical causes and exclude them. But doctors get lazy, make assumptions, cut corners and deny the many successful recoveries that occur outside their particular box.

The question hangs: how many cases of psychological disturbance, Tourette’s, autism, OCD and other disorders really have a physical basis? I know I first found international acclaim just by investigating foods as the cause of such conditions and nobody was more astonished than me to find how common it was and how easy the recovery, once the right cause was found.

There is still the question of scientific studies and finding the truth. By coincidence, a new study arrived only this week, which tried to find an association between strep and tourette’s syndrome, tics, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It was published in the advance online edition of Neurology, and looked at data from 4,774 children and young adults in the U.K. 129 patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), 108 patients with Tourette’s syndrome, and 18 with tics.

The researchers — who included Anette Schrag, MD, of the Institute of Neurology at University College London — checked all participants medical records, looking for any pattern of strep infection within two to five years of diagnosis of OCD, Tourette’s syndrome, or tics.

It’s frustrating that they found no statistical evidence of a connection. But that’s how science is. It can lead to breakthroughs; it can cause muddles and block the path forward for years.

I think it was a good study and a good attempt. But the fact it failed to find any link means that further studies needed, costing a lot more money, will probably not now be carried out.

SOURCE: Schrag, A. Neurology, Sept. 30, 2009; advance online edition.

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