Several high school girls and, now, one boy in New York State are exhibiting Tourette’s-like disorder symptoms. The phenomena has caught national attention and the attention of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
To date, 17 students are suffering from the syndrome, said WNYT, with 15—including one boy—from Le Roy High School alone, said WGRZ. The NIH has offered a second opinion to the diagnosis provided by Dr. Mechtler, who has seen nine girls and one boy who exhibit the troubling symptoms, said WGRZ. Dr. Mechtler diagnosed the teens with Conversion Disorder, which, as a group, is known as mass psychogenic illness.
WNYT noted that the students, who span from New York’s Genesee County to its Saratoga County, now include one boy, the latest victim. And, while there is no obvious connection to two girls from Corinth, located in Saratoga County, exhibiting similar symptoms, one of the girls, Lori Brownwell, did travel to Le Roy High School with her softball team last year. Lori and a teammate, Alycia Nicholson, both exhibit twitching, convulsions, and joint pain, said WNYT. Le Roy school officials announced that they ruled out environmental factors, infections, and carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to Dr. Mechtler, the NIH was initially planning to come to the area to conduct what he described as “additional high-end testing” on the students; he recently amended that announcement, saying that students and their families who choose additional testing must travel to the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, said WGRZ. Testing and travel will be at no cost to the families.
Dr. Mark Hasslett, chief of NIH’s Medical Neurology Branch, said it contacted the physicians in Dent because, “We are very interested in psychogenic movement disorders. This is one of our major areas of interest and when we saw that there were patients that had possible Conversion Disorder we wanted to make the doctors aware that we’re interested in making second opinions on these cases,” according to WGRZ.
Second opinion testing includes a physical examination and possible clinical neurophysiological testing, said Dr. Haslett, to ensure NIH physicians can arrive at their own, independent conclusions, explained WGRZ. Other eligible potential participants are welcome in the ongoing NIH Conversion Disorder research study, which has been enrolling participants since 2007. Patients must be 18 years of age or older; however, said Dr. Hasslett, an amendment to include more Le Roy teens is under consideration.
Patients’ blood will be tested for two genes found in healthy individuals to determine if the genes are more frequently seen in patients with uncontrolled shaking; patients will undergo a functional MRI, to show brains functioning while performing specific tasks, explained WGRZ. Dr. Mechtler said he recommended an international tic disorder expert to the families. “The three of us would like to work together if obviously the children decide with parents to come back if they still have faith in us,” Dr. Mettle.
This weekend, parents are also bringing in Dr. Rosario Trifoliate, a neurological specialist in PANDAS, an autoimmune disease. “I have received phone calls about the potential that this may be a significant concern for the health of the girls,” Dr. Mechtler told WGRZ.