Infection-Triggered Autoimmune Attacks on the Brain Underlie Some Sudden Onset Neuropsychiatric Illnesses, Says Moleculera Labs Chief Scientific Officer

International OCD Foundation Conference to feature discussion of causes, diagnosis and treatment of PANS and PANDAS

Jul 30, 2015, 08:31 ET from Moleculera Labs

BOSTON, July 30, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The sudden onset of certain neuropsychiatric disorders in children, including obsessive-compulsive behaviors and tics, may be caused by infection-triggered autoimmune responses that attack the brain, according to key experts at the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorders Foundation Conference. Madeleine Cunningham, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer of Moleculera Labs and professor in the department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and other notable researchers and clinicians will discuss the causes, diagnosis and treatment of PANS (pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome) and PANDAS, a subset of PANS associated with streptococcal infections, as a part of a special PANS/PANDAS program for researchers, clinicians and caregivers. The International OCD Foundation Conference is being held in Boston, MA from July 31 to August 2. 

"It has long been known that through a process called molecular mimicry, Streptococcus infections can trigger immune responses that generate autoantibodies against certain human antigens in the heart or brain. This autoimmune reaction can result in damage to heart valves, or in the case of the brain, the neurologic disorder, Sydenham chorea," said Dr. Cunningham. "Now there is increasing evidence that infection-triggered autoimmune and inflammatory reactions affecting neuronal cells in the basal ganglia of the brain can also cause sudden onset obsessive-compulsive behaviors and movement disorders in children. Moreover, such conditions may be associated with other infections besides Streptococcus, such as influenza, Lyme disease and mycoplasma."

Dr. Cunningham noted that the mechanism and effects of such anti-neuronal antibodies on the brain included alterations in dopamine transmission, including the release of excess dopamine from neuronal cells. "There may be other brain antigens targeted by autoantibodies in PANS/PANDAS and related autoimmune diseases that may affect memory and behavior," she said.


PANS and PANDAS are infection-induced autoimmune conditions that disrupt a patient's normal neurologic functioning, resulting in a sudden onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and/or motor tics. PANS and PANDAS can include a variety of other symptoms such as anorexia, anxiety, irritability, hyperactivity, sleep disturbances, mood swings and urinary problems. PANS (pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome) is associated with a variety of different infections, while PANDAS is specifically associated with infections caused by Streptococcus Group A bacteria.

Children with PANS or PANDAS are often misdiagnosed as having a psychiatric illness, and thus may be treated solely with psychotropic drugs to manage their symptoms. Unfortunately for these patients, such treatments do not address the root cause of the symptoms. Studies have shown that when given appropriate anti-infective and/or immunological treatment, PANS and PANDAS patients experience resolution or a dramatic reduction in their symptoms. Obtaining a correct diagnosis can be challenging because the symptoms of PANS and PANDAS can mimic other illnesses. Testing for autoimmune titers directed against neuronal targets via the Cunningham Panel™, offered by Moleculera Labs, can aid physicians in their clinical diagnosis of these diseases.

About Moleculera Labs

Moleculera Labs is a privately owned company whose objective is to discover and deliver advanced testing services for children and adults suffering from treatable autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders. The company's initial offering is the Cunningham Panel™, a set of tests aimed at assisting clinicians in the diagnosis of PANDAS and PANS, conditions associated with motor tics, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and sometimes Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), that researchers believe to be caused by a harmful autoimmune response triggered by common infections. Moleculera Labs is based at the University of Oklahoma (OU) Research Park in Oklahoma City and operates a full CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment) and COLA (Commission on Laboratory Accreditation) certified clinical laboratory where it performs the Cunningham Panel™ for physicians and clinicians throughout the United States and globally.  For more information, please visit our website at

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SOURCE Moleculera Labs