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Int J Psychiatry Med. 2001;31(3):311-20.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder and immunocompetence.

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Boston University, Massachusetts, USA.



A postinfectious, autoimmune response may be associated with the development of pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). According to this model, antistreptococcal antibodies cross-react with basal ganglia neurons following streptococcus infection. This autoimmune reaction disrupts a basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuit and generates obsessive-compulsive symptoms. One implication of this model is that prolonged immunologic stress may be a risk factor for OCD. That is, immunologic stress may compromise the blood-brain barrier and permit the influx of antistriatal antibodies into the central nervous system. This article explores one part of this putative relationship by investigating whether adult OCD patients, compared to members of other psychiatric groups, demonstrate a higher incidence of recurrent infections and other conditions suggestive of compromised immune function.


To test this hypothesis, we conducted a medical records review of 100 consecutive patients evaluated at a private psychiatric clinic specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Sixty-five patients met diagnostic criteria for an Axis-I syndrome. Primary diagnoses included OCD, posttraumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and dysthymic disorder. Each medical record was reviewed for the presence of target syndromes or presenting symptoms suggestive of compromised immune function.


Chart review revealed an increased rate of immune-related symptoms and syndromes among OCD patients in comparison to other anxiety and mood disorder groups. Groups did not differ significantly in the incidence of non-immune symptoms and syndromes.


Adult OCD patients appear to have an increased rate of immune-related diseases above and beyond that seen in other psychiatric disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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