1995 OCF Grant

Cytokine production in patients with OCD

Teresa A. Pigott, MD

The University of Texas Medical Branch (Galveston, TX)

Chronic and prolonged stress coupled with a long period of grief and despair can lead to an increased vulnerability to illness through their effects on the immune system. As a result, autoimmune disorders can occur in some individuals, in which the immune system attacks the body through inflammation and other factors; currently, there is a substantial body of research exploring the interactions between autoimmune disorders and OCD, including PANDAS/PANS. At the time of this study, body scans such as PET and SPECT showed increased blood flow and hyperactivity in the basal ganglion (a brain region linked to the control of muscle movements) in individuals with OCD. An early PANDAS/PANS study demonstrated that a strep throat infection which leads to Sydenham’s chorea (a type of rheumatic fever) was shown to negatively impact the basal ganglion and lead to a higher rate of OCD symptoms.

This study, led by Dr. Pigott and her team, aimed to analyze blood samples from 20 patients with OCD to look at the production of cytokines (messengers from the immune system to the nervous system) before, during, and after the administration of fluoxetine (brand name “Prozac”). Additionally, the team looked at the relationship between cytokine concentration and OCD, depression, and anxiety symptoms.