Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have been described in neuropsychiatric syndromes associated with streptococcal infections. It is proposed that antibodies raised against streptococcal proteins cross-react with neuronal proteins (antigens) in the brain, particularly in the basal ganglia, which is a brain region implicated in OCD pathogenesis. AIMS: To test the hypothesis that post-streptococcal autoimmunity, directed against neuronal antigens, may contribute to the pathogenesis of OCD in adults. METHOD: Ninety-six participants with OCD were tested for the presence of anti-streptolysin-O titres (ASOT) and the presence of anti-basal ganglia antibodies (ABGA) in a cross-sectional study. The ABGA were tested for with western blots using three recombinant antigens; aldolase C, enolase and pyruvate kinase. The findings were compared with those in a control group of individuals with depression (n = 33) and schizophrenia (n = 17). RESULTS: Positivity for ABGA was observed in 19/96 (19.8%) participants with OCD compared with 2/50 (4%) of controls (Fisher's exact test P = 0.012). The majority of positive OCD sera (13/19) had antibodies against the enolase antigen. No clinical variables were associated with ABGA positivity. Positivity for ASOT was not associated with ABGA positivity nor found at an increased incidence in participants with OCD compared with controls. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the hypothesis that central nervous system autoimmunity may have an aetiological role in some adults with OCD. Further study is required to examine whether the antibodies concerned are pathogenic and whether exposure to streptococcal infection in vulnerable individuals is a risk factor for the development of OCD.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date





381 - 386


Adolescent, Adult, Age of Onset, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Antibodies, Antigens, Basal Ganglia, Blotting, Western, Case-Control Studies, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Streptococcal Infections, Young Adult