HOUSTON Some doctors believe, if left untreated, a common infection in kids could lead to mental illness.

A year ago six year-old Madeline Greenstein, affectionately known as Maddie, had three strep infections in just as many months. It led to some strange unexpected behavior.

She would start asking me questions, says Megan Greenstein, Madeline s mother. I would have to answer them in a specific way.

Then Madeline s anxiety turned into constant fear.

She shares, I would think about scary stuff and then I would get scared.

Within two months her mother says her daughter would cry hysterically over nothing. She also says little Madeline would laugh with an extremely high pitch like something one would hear in a mental institute.

They learned Maddie was suffering with what s called PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcus). It s believed to be caused by a Strep infection.

The psychiatric symptoms just start overnight, says Dr. Michael Jenike.

The body s immune system usually makes antibodies to attack the infection, but with PANDAS, the antibodies seem to attack part of the brain. That can lead to the sudden onset of OCD, separation anxiety, anorexia, bed-wetting, tics, or the worsening of motor skills and handwriting.

I now hear and see patients all the time who have these kinds of sudden onset illnesses, explains Dr. Jenike. We put them on antibiotics and the illnesses clear up in a week or two.

Without antibiotics, he adds, this could be a problem throughout the patient s life.

Fortunately, Maddie started taking antibiotics and the results were immediate. Her mom believes her little girl s on her path to recovery.

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