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Microbial Infections and the Pathogenesis of Autoimmune Disorders

Microbial Infections and the Pathogenesis of Autoimmune Disorders

Sample Answer 

Microbial Infections and the Pathogenesis of Autoimmune Disorders

The connection between microbial infections and psychiatric disorders is an interesting discovery in medicine. Usually, bacterial infections are connected to physical diseases that can be traced back to the microbes’ impact on the body’s organs and tissue functioning. However, the discovery of the connection between microbial infections and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) shows otherwise. Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) and PANDAS are conditions characterized by the sudden onset of symptoms of psychiatric disorders in children. Only PANDAS has been connected to streptococcal infections (Swedo, Frankovich, & Murphy, 2017). This discovery draws attention to the seriousness of microbial infections.

Several other conditions may be triggered by an autoimmune response caused by a microbial infection. Multiple Sclerosis is an example associated with a protective effect against myelin loss (Anaya et al., 2013). Different types of bacterial and viral infections are believed to have the ability to trigger an immune response to protect the body against myelin loss. The antibodies trigger the onset of Multiple Sclerosis (Anaya et al., 2013). Type 1 Diabetes has also been associated with autoimmune responses to infections. Some studies have reported a connection between the Coxsackie B4 virus, Rubella, and Type 1 Diabetes. Rheumatoid arthritis has also been found to result from antibodies released to fight the effects of some bacterial infections such as E. coli and Proteus Mirabilis (Ercolini & Miller, 2009). Some of these claims have not been consistent results supporting them (Anaya et al., 2013). However, they present an interesting view of the effects of microbial infections and how the body’s response to these infections can potentially lead to more harm to one’s health and well-being.


Anaya, J. M., Shoenfeld, Y., Rojas-Villarraga, A., Levy, R. A., & Cervera, R. (2013). Autoimmunity: from bench to bedside. El Rosario University Press.

Ercolini, A. M., & Miller, S. D. (2009). The role of infections in autoimmune disease. Clinical & Experimental

Swedo, S. E., Frankovich, J., & Murphy, T. K. (2017). Overview of treatment of pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome. Journal of child and adolescent psychopharmacology, 27(7), 562-565.


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Microbial Infections and the Pathogenesis of Autoimmune Disorders


Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) is a clinical diagnosis given to children who have a dramatic – sometimes overnight – onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms including obsessions/compulsions or food restriction. They are often diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or an eating disorder, but the sudden onset of symptoms separates PANS from these other disorders. In addition, they may have symptoms of depression, irritability, anxiety, and have difficulty with schoolwork. The cause of PANS is unknown in most cases but is thought to be triggered by infections, metabolic disturbances, and other inflammatory reactions.

Microbial Infections and the Pathogenesis of Autoimmune Disorders

Microbial Infections and the Pathogenesis of Autoimmune Disorders

Like PANS, children with Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS) have an acute onset – within 2 to 3 days – of neuropsychiatric symptoms, specifically OCD or tics (involuntary, purposeless movements). However, PANDAS patients test positive for a recent streptococcal infection, such as strep throat, peri-anal strep or scarlet fever. Like PANS patients, they also may suffer from uncontrollable emotions, irritability, anxiety and loss of academic ability and handwriting skills. Although PANDAS was identified as a medical syndrome more than a decade before PANS, it has been classified as a subset of PANS. To date, PANDAS is the only known subset of PANS, but we may discover more causes in the future.

This is an interesting new discovery in microbiology. What are your thoughts on this topic? What other diseases seem to be caused by an autoimmune response due to a microbial infection?

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