January 18th, 2012
10:19 PM ET

Video: Dr. Gupta explains mystery illness

A mystery illness, similar to Tourette syndrome, strikes 12 teens who all attend the same New York High School. Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.

Post by:
Filed under: Medical News
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Xenia

    Have the girls had a recent strep infection? They need a blood strep titer test to determine if they have had recent strep infections. This sounds a lot like Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disease Associated with Strep (PANDAS). Dr. Swedo at NIH is the expert.

    January 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
  2. Deanne D.

    Simplified ? " Organophosphate Poisoning from (an insecticide or nerve agent) inhibits-inactivates acetycholinesterase – which causes accumulation of acetycholine enzyme and results in muscle overstimulation. Exposure causes disturbances across the cholinergic synapses in the brain. Exposure to the chemicals can occur through inhalation, absorption, or ingestion, this includes food treated with the organophosphate herbicide or insecticide. Overstimulation of nicotinic acetycholine receptors in the central nervous system results in anxiety, headache , convulsions, ataxia, general weekness, and more. The effects can be delay after exposure, which can be a one time exposure or an accumulation of smaller exposures over time. The onset and severity of symptoms depends upon the specific chemical bonds, the dose, route of exposure, and the individuals genetic variability to degrade or detox the compound.

    January 21, 2012 at 12:27 am |
  3. Deanne D.

    Thankyou Val and Dr. Boylan, My first response to this mystery was " Organophosphate Poisoning " This dangerous chemical is used as fertilizer, pesticide, and mixed in lubricants and oils. The poisoning can take place thru inhalation, skin exposure or ingestion. It is neurotoxic and causes many symptoms, and yes....convulsions ,tremors and tics. It has an affinity for estrogen and also has a genetic detoxification factor. And yes, sadly it is too easy to pass of conditions that are difficult as a stress disorder. Please Dr. Gupta consider this explanation. These young women deserve our respect and correct medical help.

    January 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  4. Val

    Please pay atttention to Dr.Boylan's comment above. I suffered a pesticide posioning years ago so I have experience with reactions. My last two exposures which sent me to the ER caused stuttering as one of my symptoms. Insecticides are constantly being reformulated to get better knock down for resistent insects. Both active and inert ingredients are changing with little to no research into human affects particullarly to the CNS. It is very easy to say "it's all in your head". It's not.

    January 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  5. Kris

    Lyme disease can cause this. The tests are only 50% accurate so there is NO WAY that it can be conclusively ruled out. Even the CDC states that it can be clinically diagnosed without labs. Tourette's does happen in Lyme disease and can be the first and only manifestation in earlier stages. New York is endemic for Lyme disease and you would think physicians would consider this. It is the fastest growing epidemic in this country with more cases each year than AIDS and west-nile virus combined. These numbers are on the CDC website and yet we still have an entire medical system in denial of the seriousness of this disease. No doubt this bacteria can mutate and perhaps these girls have a strain that has chosen to go straight to the brain since the Lyme bacteria has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier in less than 48 hours. If I were these parents, I would take my daughter to an LLMD, Lyme Literate Medical Doctor. Refer to ILADS, International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society for proper information regarding Lyme disease. Until our current medical system catches up to the science already there, it will continue to be overlooked and more people will suffer.

    January 20, 2012 at 4:02 am |
  6. Tess

    There is considerable evidence for the existence of gluten related neurological syndromes ( Hadjivassiliou, Grunewald et al. 2002; Hadjivassiliou, Grunewald et al. 2003). Hadjivassiliou suggests that gluten intolerance related ataxia is the single most common cause of a sporadic ataxia, accounting for about 41% of cases. Anti gliaden-antibody testing can be used to detect these cases.

    January 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  7. Nina

    Dr. Gupta:

    As a parent to a 10 year old daughter with Tourette's Syndrome, it seems to me this sudden onset of 12 girls in one school should be studied thoroughly to see if it can unlock the key to understanding Tourrette's Syndrome. I have learned stats say more common in males, but suddenly 12 girls? For what it is worth, my 10 year old started having tics after she endured a sudden onset febriatic seizure at about age 3 at her preschool. Within a day or two, she later developed temporary Belle's Palsy on the right side of her face which lasted a week. To this day she has tics and ADHD like symptoms, as well as great difficulty with spontaneous expressive language. Doctors have reassured me it had nothing to do with her seizure, but now I see this story and what is in common is that she developed the illness suddently while at her preschool on a military base (which is no longer). So here we have something in common-–> school environment. If you would like to correspond or talk to me further feel free to contact me.

    January 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  8. Leslie Kowalski

    Please, please, please – let's dismiss the idea that Tourette Syndrome and tics equal corprolalia (compulsive swearing). Tic disorders are primarily characterized by motor and vocal tics that are repetitive and painful (both physically and emotionally) to the person who is compelled to repeat these movements and sounds hundreds to thousands of times per day. Compulsive swearing as a tic may be the most "famous", but it – in fact – only occurs in 10 to 15% of people with TS or tics. I urge Anderson Cooper to use his bully pulpit to spread more education and awareness about this disorder, rather than perpetuate misconceptions. My two daughters, whose bodies betray them every day – hundreds and hundreds of times a day – as they battle TS, would very much appreciate it.

    January 19, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  9. Brian Shoop

    My son Jon, a highschool senior, has had these same symptoms and they were diagnosed as stress related. He has had them around mid-terms and finals since he was in 10th grade. They go away after a week or so, when the stress has lessened.

    January 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  10. Nancy Myers

    Sorry, Anderson and Sanjay, but you guys are totalling missing the mark on this story! 12+ girls do not suddenly develop debilitating tics out of some sort of "mass hysteria." What teenage girl wants to draw unwanted attention to herself and be viewed as "weird"?!?! When Tourettes and/or anxiety (OCD, etc.) symptoms appear overnight, that is a sure sign of a neuropsychiatric reaction to some sort of microbe, pathogen or microbe, and these girls deserve to have extensive testing to determine the source, rather than just treating the symptoms with psycho-pharmaceuticals and therapy to relieve the "stress." "Conversion disorder"?!?! That's the most ridiculous thing I've heard since leeches were used to bleed folks of any and all sorts of illnesses. It's a lazy doctor's diagnosis and won't hold up to scrutiny. I suggest you look into PANDAS, PANS and PITANDS, autoimmune disorders well-documented by the NIMH and known by doctors and researchers within the IOCDF, Yale, University of Oklahoma, etc.

    January 19, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Julie Dotson

      I agree Nancy! I am Professional Counselor in Illinois and I currently have a case of a 17 year old male who developed severe tics a year ago immediately after he had the flu with a high fever. The symptoms have not gone away and they are treating him with a cocktail of psychiatric medicines. I believe something happened neurologically to his brain. To say mass hysteria or stress is such an insult to these families!

      January 22, 2012 at 10:26 am |
  11. Richard Boylan, Ph.D.

    Those 12 girls (Thera Sanchez et al.) on tonight's news affected with severe tics at that upstate New York high school near Rochester: their nerve and muscle dyscontrol is caused by poisonous contact with an insecticide containing the neurotoxin organophosphate, (such as Dotan [chlormephos]). The insecticide was sprayed earlier to deal with a cockroach infestation.
    The product was used in the girls locker room, which is why no boys developed the tics.
    Please advise the Monroe County Environmental Health Department to inspect the girls locker room at once and eliminate all organophosphate residue.
    Thank you. – Richard Boylan, Ph.D. (retired psychologist)

    January 19, 2012 at 3:14 am |
    • S.C. Youx

      Dr. Boylan,
      I hope that you will contact all of the proper authorities and give them this information. Hopefully you have taken it beyond just posting it on a website. If you have the key to the mystery, it is imperative that you provide it to the proper authorities. These girls are suffering and if you can alleviate it, you would be a hero.

      January 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  12. Karen

    Has anyone looked into drugs causing these symptoms? Maybe the girls aren't being truthful. Could they have used a drug to lose weight that wouldn't be sanctioned by their parents? I find it odd that these symptoms only affected girls at and around the same time. Could someone maybe have "poisoned" them? Could it be a certain product that they all used? I find it offensive just because they're female that the medical community blames these symptoms on stress/hysteria etc. If they were boys developing these symptoms I doubt they would consider this.

    January 19, 2012 at 2:08 am |
  13. AM RYan

    I wonder if there is fracking in their area. Valid concern and someone should look into this.

    January 19, 2012 at 1:46 am |