More Evidence: Infections Associated With an Increased Risk for Neuropsychiatric Illness in Children

Ever since PANDAS/PANS burst onto the scene (albeit controversially) in 1998, the evidence has been piling up that our mental health is more connected with the immune response that we realized.

Well, Moleculara Labs just featured another article summarizing a new study in JAMA to add to the pile. It’s pasted below, but if you want to see the originals, click HERE for the summary, or HERE for the abstract.


Nationwide study finds both mild and severe infections can increase risk of mental disorders in children and adolescents.

infections can increase risk of mental disorders in children and adolescents

This new publication substantiates the medical model that the brain and body are tightly connected and demonstrates the correlation between a history of infection and increased risk of psychiatric symptoms requiring treatment in the pediatric population. The study revealed that children and adolescents who had been hospitalized with an infection had an 84% increased risk of suffering from a mental disorder and 42% increased risk of being prescribed medication to treat mental disorders. The risk was higher for specific mental disorders, including psychotic disorders, OCD, tics, personality disorders, autism and ADHD. The risk appears to be highest immediately after the infection, supporting the conclusion that the infection plays a role in the development of the mental disorder. 1

These findings provide evidence for the involvement of infections and the immune system in the etiology of a wide range of mental disorders in children and adolescents.

The editorial for this article poses the following question: How could exposure to infections affect the brain mechanistically to give rise to mental disorders? The editorial authors suggest the following potential mechanisms:

“Circulating autoantibodies that enter the brain via a compromised blood-brain barrier and bind to neurotransmitter receptors is a potential explanation, and this mechanism has been proposed in PANDAS and other mental disorders. Furthermore, inflammatory mediators, including immune cells and cytokines, can pass the blood-brain barrier to generate a local inflammatory response in the brain, which has been linked to depression in humans.” 2

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