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BACKGROUND: Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have been described in neuropsychiatric syndromes associated with streptococcal infections. It is proposed that antibodies raised against streptococcal proteins cross-react with neuronal proteins (antigens) in the brain, particularly in the basal ganglia, which is a brain region implicated in OCD pathogenesis. AIMS: To test the hypothesis that post-streptococcal autoimmunity, directed against neuronal antigens, may contribute to the pathogenesis of OCD in adults. METHOD: Ninety-six participants with OCD were tested for the presence of anti-streptolysin-O titres (ASOT) and the presence of anti-basal ganglia antibodies (ABGA) in a cross-sectional study. The ABGA were tested for with western blots using three recombinant antigens; aldolase C, enolase and pyruvate kinase. The findings were compared with those in a control group of individuals with depression (n = 33) and schizophrenia (n = 17). RESULTS: Positivity for ABGA was observed in 19/96 (19.8%) participants with OCD compared with 2/50 (4%) of controls (Fisher's exact test P = 0.012). The majority of positive OCD sera (13/19) had antibodies against the enolase antigen. No clinical variables were associated with ABGA positivity. Positivity for ASOT was not associated with ABGA positivity nor found at an increased incidence in participants with OCD compared with controls. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the hypothesis that central nervous system autoimmunity may have an aetiological role in some adults with OCD. Further study is required to examine whether the antibodies concerned are pathogenic and whether exposure to streptococcal infection in vulnerable individuals is a risk factor for the development of OCD.

Original publication

DOI

10.1192/bjp.bp.111.092007

Type

Journal article

Journal

Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date

05/2012

Volume

200

Pages

381 - 386

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, Age of Onset, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Antibodies, Antigens, Basal Ganglia, Blotting, Western, Case-Control Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Streptococcal Infections, Young Adult