Strep throat is a highly contagious infection caused by group A streptococcal bacteria. Although it is most common is children and teenagers, adults can also contact it. Because the bacteria are present in the nose and throat, it can be easily spread by coughing, sneezing and shaking hands. However, it can also be acquired by touching objects such as door knobs, books, tables and other surfaces that were handled by a sick person.
Although strep throat is easily treated with antibiotics, if left undiagnosed or untreated it can lead to serious complications. Some of the most common side effects of strep throat include headaches, joint paint, fever and nasal congestion. More diverse complications are abscesses, pneumonia, meningitis, otitis and rheumatic fever. However, there are some rare side effect of strep throat that you must be aware of, such as Sydenham’s chorea, post-streptococcal GN and PANDAS.
Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections, or PANDAS, is one of the rarest side effect of strep throat. It was first described in the mid-90s and only recently recognized by the National Institute of Mental Health. For years doctors believed that the connection between strep throat and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) was purely coincidental. However, in 2009 a study conducted by Columbia University confirmed that strep throat can cause OCD and Tourette symptoms in mice. Researchers believe that PANDAS uses the same pathways as rheumatic fever and alters the part of the brain that controls movement and behavior. This phenomenon is known as molecular mimicry. The symptoms include OCD behaviors such as general anxiety, oppositional defiance behavior and emotional mood swings. Some children manifest loss of motor skills movement and learning disabilities.
Sydenham’s chorea (SC) or chorea minor is a disorder that caused rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements that primarily affect the hands, feet and face. It is caused by a childhood infection with Group A beta-hemolytic Streptococcus and affects 20-30% of individuals with acute rheumatic fever. The disease occurs up to 6 months after the infection and can present symptoms of rheumatic fever and non-neurologic manifestations. SC is more common in females and children below 18 years. The symptoms are sudden and sometimes appear within a few hours, affecting all four limbs. Other symptoms include headache, facial grimacing, deterioration of handwriting, gait disturbance, tongue fasciculations, dysarthria, hypotonia, behavior changes and fidgetiness.
Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis (PSGN) is one of the rare side effects of strep throat that affects the kidneys. After an episode of strep throat, children under the age of 7 are at risk of developing this condition. However, it usually resolves itself after a few weeks and generally does not cause permanent damage. The infection does not occur in the kidneys, but in other parts of the body like the skin or throat. Strep bacteria cause a response in the immune system to fight the infection. Because the antibodies and dead bacteria are trapped in the filter of the kidney, the tiny vessels inflate, thus making the kidney less able to filter urine.