Is PANDAS Really Vaccine-Injury?

With all the coverage of The Le Roy Twelve in the last 10 days, one thing has been a positive… at least from the standpoint of many in the “autism” community.

There has been greatly increased attention to PANDAS – Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcus.

PANDAS is what happens when a child’s immune system does not respond appropriately to a strep infection. Years ago when I first learned about PANDAS, it was believed that strep was the single causal bacterial infection responsible for triggering the attack on the basal ganglia and the anterior cingulate gyrus. When I moved to Evansville from D.C. and began working with a Mayo-trained psychiatrist who is arguably the best in his field, at least in this part of the midwest, he had never heard of PANDAS… it was too new.  At my suggestion we began doing blood tests (ASO, Anti-DNAse) to detect for strep antibodies that were outside of the normal range. We frequently found evidence of chronic strep infections in several of our teenaged patients who had previously been diagnosed and treated for everything from ADHD and Autism to Tourette’s Disorder, OCD, Bipolar Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  We also had many patients whose strep levels came back negative. At the time, it was our understanding (based on the research in 2002-2005) that if blood tests were negative, it probably wasn’t PANDAS.

Thankfully, the research has continued to advance since the first five years of the 21st century. There is currently a much greater understanding about how many different bacterial and viral infections can attack the parts of the brain that are responsible for movement control, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors, and the extreme emotional and behavioral ups and downs exhibited by children whose brains are infected and inflamed. Because it is now known that multiple infectious agents are involved in the clinical presentation of an autoimmune brain attack, we no longer refer to the syndrome as just “PANDAS.” Instead this group of neuro-immune disorders is now referred to as PANDAS/PITAND/PANS.  For those who would like to learn more about this group of sudden onset disorders, this is an excellent article.

As you may recall, in my first sentence of this post I stated that the increased awareness of PANDAS as a result of what is going on in Le Roy, New York comes as a relief to many in the “autism” community.  That’s because PANDAS/PITAND/PANS is not rare among our children.  In 2007, when I attended my last Defeat Autism Now conference, it was estimated that PANDAS (just the form associated with strep) affected more than 30% of children diagnosed with autism.  Even with that knowledge, many parents have had an extremely difficult time obtaining appropriate diagnosis and treatment for their children. Pediatricians and General Practice doctors who are not familiar with the latest research into the many medical conditions that cause “autism” symptoms often flat-out refuse to even do a strep test on a child with “autism” because the knowledge of PANDAS is relatively new and treatment is deemed “experimental.” This has resulted in many tragic and unnecessary deaths of children on the spectrum, simply because their doctors refused to consider that there might be something about “autism” they were not taught in medical school.

Staph infections are now also known to cause PANDAS. Strep and staph, when left undiagnosed and untreated can cause severe, permanent damage to the heart. Strep and staph also cause progressive damage to the brain, which can and sometimes does result in massive hemorrhage and death. In some cases, the effects of these bacterial infections can be so severe that the child’s brain swells, causing severe pain.  In children diagnosed with “autism” (especially those who are non-verbal), the extreme pain may lead to head-banging behavior.  Unfortunately, the psychiatric and psychological professionals who have historically treated children on the autism spectrum view head-banging as “stimming,”  Because the child “has autism,” they are not likely to do the lab tests necessary to determine if the child’s brain is inflamed due to a severe bacterial infection.

Repetitive head-banging leads to severe bruising, so these children often look as if they are being abused.  When a child with “autism” dies as a result of brain hemorrhage caused by bacterial infection, the child may look as if he or she was beaten to death.  There are some cases where parents have been accused and convicted of murdering their children and when the medical records are examined, it is clear the child had strep and staph infections in the brain. Unfortunately, because pathologists, like many pediatricians, do not know about PANDAS/PITAND/PANS, they almost universally overlook the connection and the parents are convicted.  This is exactly what happened in a case with which I was involved last year.  The child died and the parents were charged with murder.  I consulted on this case and I reviewed the medical records.  On autopsy, the child was found to have both strep and staph infections in his brain. His thalamus, basal ganglia, and cerebellar areas were described by the pathologist as “mush,” and the official cause of death was due to intracranial hemorrhage which the pathologist stated was from parental abuse.  Despite evidence presented that the child was physically ill and was self-harming because he was in constant pain, the parents were convicted of killing their child.

Review of the medical records and developmental history indicated the child had been seen by numerous medical doctors, including a host of psychiatrists and psychologists. No-one ever checked to see if he had strep or staph infections.  The parents took him to all of the “experts” in their area, and nothing worked. Nothing worked because nobody ever bothered to consider that his behavior was not the problem – it was a symptom of the underlying disease process that continued to worsen until it finally killed him.

The little boy described above was a Russian adoptee.  He is only one of several Russian adoptees to have died in this manner, and his parents are not alone as they face the remainder of their lives with the stigma of being convicted of killing the child they so desperately tried to help.  As I was working on this case, one thing I kept asking myself was, “Why are these children so much more vulnerable to autoimmune attacks on the brain?”  The conclusion I came away with is this:  They are over-vaccinated.  Russian medical records are always suspect and even when they contain information indicating the children have been fully vaccinated as infants, they are routinely re-vaccinated on the “catch-up schedule” when they arrive in the U.S.  Because Russian adoption records are always suspected as being incorrect, even children (as the one discussed above) who have medical records indicating histories of encephalitis (a very frequent adverse event following vaccination) are assumed to be healthy and re-vaccinated with even more vaccines that U.S. children get when they are born here. I will not provide citations for information on Russian adoptions. If you want to check it out for yourself, please google “Russian adoption medical records” and see for yourself. The point is, there is a reason why Russian adoptees are more prone to autoimmune attacks on the brain, which make them engage in self-injurious behaviors and increases the likelihood of them dying from brain hemorrhage.  The underlying cause appears to be vaccines.

How is this related to “autism” and PANDAS?

As you are probably aware by now, parents of children diagnosed with autism are the ones who have been saying for more than a decade that their children’s neuro-immune disorders are the result of vaccine-injury.

Many parents of children diagnosed with “autism” have been through the same rejection and denial of their children’s medical illness as the parents of The Le Roy Twelve are currently experiencing.  When a child is diagnosed with autism his or her medical problems are often chalked up to “just part of autism” by doctors who don’t know any better.  As a result, many of us have had to become the primary care providers for our children. We have become the researchers. We have had to.  If you encounter a parent whose child has “autism” and he or she starts telling you about PANDAS, my advice would be to listen.  In almost all cases, the parent will know more than your doctor.  “Autism parents” can often give you the research you need to educate your doctor and to obtain appropriate diagnosis and treatment for your child.  “Autism parents,” especially those who have older children and who have been networking and sharing information for years, frequently have volumes of research in binders or stored in folders on their computers. They are almost always willing to share that information and to help your child obtain the necessary treatment he or she needs.

There is a reason why “autism parents” are so knowledgeable about PANDAS.  It’s the same reason “autism parents” are the ones who are most vocal about the dangers of vaccines.

PANDAS in the general population is rare.  The autoimmune attacks on the brain that are the hallmark of PANDAS/PITAND/PANS are now known to be very common in vaccine-injured children.  Among some physicians, the neuro-immune attacks are believed to be the universal underlying cause of what we commonly refer to as “autism.”

As this article reports, IVIG (Intra-Venous Immuno-Globulin) treatment has been shown to be highly effective at treating those experiencing the clinical manifestations associated with PANDAS. In one study mentioned IVIG was successful in eradicating symptoms in 82% of subjects who received it.  This begs the question, “Why is this particular treatment so effective?”  IVIG is a treatment that rebalances a skewed immune system. It does not tackle the bacterial infections per se, by trying to wipe out strep or staph, as does antibiotic treatment. IVIG improves the child’s immune system, making it more able to fight off the infections. This suggests that the underlying cause of PANDAS is not the bacterial (or viral) infections themselves, but the increased susceptibility to an inappropriate response to these infectious agents, when the child is exposed to them.

This brings us to the question, “What is it that causes certain children to be more vulnerable to having a skewed immune system?”

The most likely answer to that is “Vaccines.” Not a particular vaccine. Not a particular component of a particular vaccine. Vaccines in general; especially when administered according to The CDC’s Recommended Childhood Schedule.

Final thought:  Historically, PANDAS has been known to affect younger children. They very frequently begin to exhibit symptoms after entering kindergarten. Another peak onset for symptoms of PANDAS is after a child enters junior high.  An argument could be made that children whose symptom-onset fits this pattern are suffering from “conversion disorder” due to the stress of adapting to either being in school for the first time, or to the increased demands (changing classes, remembering locker combinations, greater quantities of homework, etc.) that characterize the junior high academic experience.  However, before we attribute these patterns to “stress induced psychogenic disorders,” we really should ask ourselves what else do these kids have in  common.  The answer is “back-to-school shots.”  Just as the onset of PANDAS symptoms has historically affected younger children (that’s why it’s a “pediatric” diagnosis), historically, “back-to-school shots” have also only been a factor in those school children entering kindergarten and again when they advance to middle school.

We are now beginning to see increasing numbers of older adolescents (high school-aged kids) exhibiting symptoms consistent with PANDAS.  We have also only recently begun vaccinating high school students on a routine basis with an ever-increasing vaccination schedule.

Is this coincidence? Or is it vaccine-injury?

For a discussion of how vaccines cause neuro-immune disorders, please read my article:

Paul Offit is Right! Autism is About the Synapse… and Dendritic Immunity.

Add a comment »12 comments to this article

  1. PANDAS is most definitely triggered by vaccines. My DS has PANDAS triggered by FluMist when he was 5yr old.


    • Thank-you for your comment.
      I am in the process of putting together a comprehensive developmental history form that will be posted here on VaxTruth. I hope you will consider contributing to a database, by entering your son’s information. There will be nothing that could identify you or him personally. My goal is to gather the information so we can do independent research that may help to identify factors that make our children more susceptible to vaccine-injury.
      Many blessings to your son.
      I hope he is progressing well.


  2. I am a total believer in vaccine injury and that the result could be autism and/or PANDAS. It is the reason we chose not to vaccinate my son at all. We do have a genetic predisposition to autism in our family on my husband’s side.

    My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and PANDAS being 100% vaccine free. I think it is so important for all parents, whether they vaccinate or not, to be aware of the signs and symptoms.


  3. Marcella, I know someone with severe OCD and Tourettes acquired at age four. I don’t know if it’s vaccine-related; he did not enter school until first grade, but may have been vaccinated prior to that. He has three mycoplasma infections, but not tested for any other infections. I notice his symptoms dramatically recede when he catches a “cold”. Do you know what could account for this? Thank you for your excellent information!



    • Thanks for your comment, Rooster.
      There are many parents of children with autism diagnoses who report the same kind of improvement in their children’s functioning when they run a fever. Many parents see improved speech and eye-contact, and less problematic behavior when fevers accompany illness. I can’t say exactly why that may be, but my hunch is it has something to do with the reduction in immune attack on the brain, which is the underlying commonality in PANDAS and Autism.
      Perhaps because the immune system has something else to “focus on” during the acute period of illness, the brain receives less intense of an attack by the T-cells?
      That’s an interesting question, and one I will have to look into more closely.


  4. I was concerned about my son having PANDAS/PANS…we stopped vaccines with our oldest child. So he is unvaccinated…maybe more so than vaccinated children…maybe these children are created differently and have a weakness to vaccines, virus’s, bacteria, causing more issues? Doctor says he doesn’t meet criteria for PANDAS because he doesn’t have OCD….yet, we had quite an out of control anxiety kid after he became sick! The school wanted to send him to a special Behaviroal school….so what caused this?


  5. My son is one of the back-to-school victims. He got his first MMR shot in August to get ready for kindergarten. The following week he fell of the cliff with OCD, rage, headaches. I thought we were being cautious by delaying the MMR until his immune system was more mature, but now we are living a nightmare. Now with a new autism diagnosis, I can’t get any mainstream doctors to look at what could be going on in his brain. “That’s just autism.” I was even told by his neurologist that the sudden onset of symptoms coinciding with his immune reaction to the MMR shot was a “statistical coincidence.” We must pay out of pocket for doctors who will investigate and can hopefully treat autoimmune encephalitis. Call it autism, PANS, or something else, but my son’s immune system is wrecked and he is suffering. Much of what you wrote in this article resonates with our situation.


  6. Have you done any research on the swine flu vaccine and its effect on children? My son began exhibiting symptoms of PANDAS/PANs immediately following this vaccine.


  7. I’m in the same boat as Jason Herron…1 week after the swine flu vaccine (in the beginning of Nov. 2013) my son (6.5 years) has several motor tics and couple of phonic tics. He we also showing a few OCD symptoms. One Neurologist just simply ruled it out as possible Tic Disorder or perhaps Tourette. I’m not really convinced as the symptoms came suddenly and then about a month and a half later my son was diagnosed with a strep throat infection. This is January 2014 and his symptoms are not getting any better…I tried talking to the pediatrician and Neurologist but they believe that it simply a coincidence. Can somebody recommend a pediatric neurologist/immunologist that believes in PANDAS.


    • Where are you located? We travel about 4 hours to see Dr. Rosario Trifaletti who is located in New Jersey. He is one of the best and deals only with PANDAS/PANS patients.


  8. My son was diagnosed with PANDAS by his pediatrician. I was wondering about the flu shot. Now reading all these stories I don’t think he will be getting one. He has an appointment with a pediatric neurologist next month who was referred to us by the pediatrician. With all these flu deaths and our children’s screwed up immune systems I’m really scared.


  9. Destiny, I recommend you get involved with a immunologist if you are concerned. Please remember that other pathogens besides strep, staph, etc can cause PANDAS. Google “Adults with PANDAS” and look for Dr. Anthony Goodman’s article for an interesting read with him treating adults,.


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