LeRoy teenage neurological illness mystery–junk science everywhere

When I write postings here, I never search google for information or sources, I always go to trusted locations for my information.  For example, if I read a news article on some interesting subject, I check with the original source, usually at PubMed, for medical articles, and the original abstract (at least) for other science articles.  I click on nearly every outlink in postings that I read, to confirm whether the information presented is accurate.  A google search is practically useless, especially for medical articles, because the amount of cruft and junk science makes it a challenge to sort.

WordPress blogs (which I use) tells the user if a blog posting was searched on google (or Yahoo…does anyone use that anymore?)  Apparently, my postings about the LeRoy (NY) neurological show up on google (but not that far up the list, so people must be digging), and I was kind of surprised.  This led me to do something that I just vowed I wouldn’t do, I googled it.

In my honored status as a self-appointed skeptic, I want to review some of them for scientific acceptability.  I won’t discuss Erin Brokovich’s theory, which I discussed here and the recent neurological hypothesis posted earlier.

PANDAS May Be Cause Of Mysterious LeRoy Illness, Neurologist Claims–PANDAS, or Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections,  is a term used to describe a subset of children who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and/or tic disorders such as Tourette’s Syndrome, and in whom symptoms worsen following streptococcus infections such as “Strep throat” and Scarlet Fever.”  There is no laboratory test for the disease, so patients must meet five criteria before they can be diagnosed.

Dr. Rosario Trifiletti has made a PANDAS diagnosis just by analyzing some laboratory data. But wait there’s more.  He presented his diagnosis on the Dr. Drew show, not in a peer-reviewed publication (there are a few that have rapid communications).  Others, like Dr. Susan Swedo, who is the branch chief of pediatrics and developmental neuropsychiatry at the National Institute on Mental Health, are skeptical of Trifiletti’s diagnosis:

❝For one thing, PANDAS doesn’t usually occur in clusters. Indeed, Swedo says that she is “not aware” of any epidemics of PANDAS ever occurring. The last epidemic of illness following strep infections — a cluster of rheumatic fever, which is an inflammatory disorder — happened in the 1980s. (Both PANDAS and rheumatic fever are caused by overzealous immune responses to infections; immune cells mistakenly attack particular organs or tissues, in addition to the infectious agents.)❞

Furthermore, a recent review of research in PANDAS came to this conclusion: “Despite continued research in the field, the relationship between GAS and specific neuropsychiatric disorders (PANDAS) remains elusive. It is possible that GAS infection may be but one of the many stressors that can exacerbate tic/Tourette’s or OCD in a subset of such patients.”  In other words, this “diagnosis” doesn’t have much going for it.

Leroy New York Teen Tourettes HPV Vaccine Link.  No evidence, since we have no information whether they have received the HPV vaccine.  And there is no evidence.

Fracking May Be Cause of Le Roy School Girls’ Health Issues.  For those of you unfamiliar with fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, it is fracturing rock layers under pressure to release hydrocarbons, mostly natural gas.  The process uses a large amount of organic chemicals which can get into the water table.  There is no proof that fracking causes any health issues, but it is clearly environmentally destructive.  However, the New York State Department of Health has performed a thorough examination of LeRoy High School, most of the sufferers attended the school, and found nothing out of the ordinary.

Is PANDAS Really Vaccine Injury?  This was posted in “Sane Vax”, an anti-vaccination website which mostly discussed the PANDAS diagnosis discussed above.  The problem with the article is that although the title says “vaccine injury”, the article mentioned nothing further.  I think they just tend to throw “vaccine” against every mysterious medical issue, just to make sure it links on google (no, I have no evidence, but the article didn’t make sense in light of the title).

These issues appear to have risen to the top of the google list.  As you know, a lot of websites just quote one another, and it appears to be a tsunami of evidence.  My prediction:  the evidence will probably support some psychological issue.

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor

Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!

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  • Several major publications have letters or rapid communications. Then again, medical information released as a press release and an interview on the Dr. Drew show should be treated with a high degree of skepticism until such time that there is a confirming diagnosis.

    As for NIMH doing a clinical trial? That is a highly fallacious argument, since most clinical trials are failures, that’s why we do them. Finally, since you and your group are making the extraordinary claim, the positive assertion, I only have to show that the evidence is negative. You have to show me the positive evidence. You haven’t.


    What publication does the fast turn around? That would be nice info to have! When getting something published, say it’s a month to write it, then you submit it, then a month minimum for publishing. IF the students have a PANDAS-like illness, time is very important.

    As for how Dr Trifiletti came up with his working diagnosis, I don’t believe it was lab results only as PANDAS and PANS are clinical diagnoses. Rather, he saw supportive information in the labs to back up what he observed and the information he obtained during their in-person evaluations.

    If you want to get technical…he did not diagnose them with PANDAS. He said “PANDAS-like” which means it may be of similar etiology and overlapping symptoms but it does vary in some way.

    Finally, if the diagnosis itself (not to do with Le Roy) doesn’t have much going for it, then why on Earth would the NIMH be doing an IVIG study for PANDAS kids as we speak? The “naysayers” of the disorder have always been out there, but there’s just as much information to back up the disorder. There’s the Columbia mouse study, the Tel Aviv study, etc.