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ARTICLE REVIEW: stuttering and childhood infections

Summary and Review of the article "Stuttering onset associated with streptococcal infection: A case suggesting stuttering as PANDAS" by Gerald A. Maguire, MD; Steven N. Viele, MD, FAAP; and Sanjay Agarwal, MD; Elliot Handler, BA; David Franklin, PsyD. From ANNALS OF CLINICAL PSYCHIATRY 2010; 22(4): 283-284

This article, co-authored by researcher Gerald Maguire, discusses the documented case of a six year old boy who started stuttering after being diagnosed with a streptoccal infection. The symptoms of this were a “sore throat, fever and general malaise”, but at the request of the parents antibiotics were not administered to the child. He started stuttering approximately one month after the infection. There was no history of stuttering with the child personally or in his family.

Five months after the onset of the illness, his parents took him back to be adminstered antibiotics. At this point, the infection was still present and his stuttering was becoming worse. He was given “amoxicillin/clavulanic acid”, a commonly used combination of antibiotics used to treat infections. As the streptoccal throat culture decreased over the next two weeks, so did the boy’s stuttering.

The connection between the infection and stuttering is the first of its kind, and is not conclusive. The hypothesis is that, in some individuals, stuttering could be a product of “pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with streptococcal infections”, a condition abbreviated to PANDAS. The basal ganglia region of the brain, which is still developing in young children, is believed to be affected by the antibodies that are created to fight the infection.

The basal ganglia is a group of nuclei in the brain that interacts with other regions, including the cerebral cortex, and is responsible for, among other things, motor control and involuntary movements. Studies have indicated that a deficiency in the behaviour of the basal ganglia plays a role in stuttering.

Further study is needed to determine the full relationship between infection and stuttering onset in some children.

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