Doctors say strep can trigger rare behavioral disorders in children

NEW YORK (CBS) -- It's strep throat season, and while many children are treated for the infection and suffer no problems, strep can trigger rare behavioral disorders in some unlucky kids, CBS reports.

For some, strep can cause disorders such as severe tantrums, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and even tics. These rare complications are caused by an immune system that attacks the strep bacteria and the child's brain.

One family found out about this possibility when their young son contracted strep, and his personality changed overnight.

Saul and Bonnie Markowitz told CBS New York that their son Brandon was five and a half when he suddenly began acting out with uncontrollable tantrums and debilitating OCD.

"One day he's doing his thing really happy and wanting to go out and do his thing, and suddenly the next day he wakes up and we aren't sure what's going on," Saul said.

According to doctors, Brandon's strep developed into a complication called PANDAS. It stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections.

"What that basically means is a child gets an infection and the antibodies to that infection end up attacking the brain instead of the germs," PANDAS expert Dr. Elizabeth Spaar told the station.

Though PANDAS is estimated to affect one in 200 children, it is often misdiagnosed. Antibiotics are the standard of treatment.

"For the kids where it isn't caught early and misdiagnosed, there can be lifelong effects from it, unfortunately," Spaar said.

Luckily for Brandon, his case was noticed early on, and his parents said he's doing well thanks to advanced treatments.

While most children, like Brandon, can get better with antibiotics, symptoms can take weeks to go away and many kids experience relapses.