I was really excited to read Infectious Madness and while Washington makes some interesting points she fails to stick the landing. I would also caution anyone whose loved ones, especially their children, have any of these afflictions to take the contents of this books with a grain of salt. Essentially correlation is not causation and sometimes the sound of hooves is just a horse.
Schizophrenia, for example, has been traced to waves of influenza epidemics as well as to infections with bornavirus; species of adolescent anorexia and Tourette’s syndrome have been connected to streptococcal infections that affect the basal ganglia; and autism is linked to marauding infections from children’s own guts.
Also- your cats are trying to kill you… but we knew that ready, right?
The most interesting section was on PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal infection) where children develop anorexia or OCD tendencies seemingly overnight after having strep. Children can be cured of these debilitating disorders with antibiotics and blood plasma transfusions. While this is a fascinating phenomenon Washington, who is not a doctor, picks and chooses the cases she presents to make PANDA scientist Dr Swedo’s hypothesis work.
I wish she had focused on disorders that had more concrete connections to viruses like Helicobator pylori (ulcer causing bacteria), toxoplasma gondii (which causes toxoplasmosis and gives pregnant women an out from scooping litter boxes for 9 months) and all the fun things Syphilis does to the brain. I think the author bit off more than she could chew and wanted to get everything out regardless of her ability to back it up or not. I will applaud Ms Washington on her engaging writing style and her ability to present complicated theories in an easy to understand manner. However I will not be donning a tinfoil hat and kicking my cats out of the house anytime soon.