Obsessive Compulsive Disorder could start from a sore throat

David Beckham is one of the most high-profile sufferers of the condition Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  He has spoken of his compulsion to count clothes and place magazines in straight lines and symmetrical patterns.  He may be surprised to learn that it could be due to nothing more than a sore throat he once caught.


A study published in the U.S. suggests that in some cases of OCD the body’s attack on the bugs that cause one in ten throat infections goes awry.

The antibodies that are made to attack the bacteria also zero in on the brain, causing changes in behaviour. It raises the possibility that OCD can be caught rather than being a purely psychological condition.

The theory, if proven, could lead to new treatments for the condition that affects up to three per cent of the population.

Symptoms vary but may include repeated hand-washing or cleaning, the need to check doors are locked or gadgets switched off and the arranging of items in a specific order.

Other celebrity OCD sufferers include Paul Gascoigne, Harrison Ford, Emily Lloyd, Michelle Pfeiffer and Winona Ryder.

Beckham has said: ‘I have got this obsessive compulsive disorder where I have to have everything in a straight line or everything has to be in pairs.’

Despite OCD affecting up to two million people in Britain alone, its causes are largely a mystery.

The latest study suggests the streptococci bugs that cause many sore throats play a role.

Injecting mice with the germs behind ‘strep throat’ led to them developing repetitive actions similar to sufferers of OCD, the journal Molecular Psychiatry reports. Tests showed that antibodies-against the bug had made their way to the part of the brain that control compulsions, movement and anxiety.

When the scientists, from Columbia University in New York, removed some of the antibodies and injected them into healthy mice, their behaviour also changed.

Although the experiments were in mice, the researchers believe they may also apply to people, and particularly children.

They believe some may be genetically programmed to make the wrong immune response to the strep throat bug.

Other factors, including exposure to pesticides, may help tip the balance.

Finding a drug that mops up the rogue antibodies, or dampens down the immune response, could help treat OCD. With other conditions, including autism and anorexia, having also been linked to rogue immune responses, the study could have broad implications.

It is unclear just how many cases of OCD have their roots in strep throat. But researcher Columbia University Mady Hornig believes the bug may be behind up to a third of cases in which sufferers also have some traits of autism or hyperactivity.

She adds that taking antibiotics for strep throat  –  and finishing the course  –  may cut the odds of further problems.

British experts urged parents not to worry. Ashley Fulwood, of charity OCD-UK, said: ‘There are a whole host of theories. Is it biological or is it lack of serotonin in the brain, or is it psychological, learned behaviour? The strep throat theory is another one. We need to research the causes to find better treatments.’

Current treatments, such as counselling and anti-depressants, do not work for everyone, and many patients suffer side effects from the drugs.

Via Daily Mail