Doctor: LeRoy Students With Rare Illness To Be Tested At NIH

1:09 PM, Feb 24, 2012   |    comments
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BUFFALO, NY- The number of LeRoy High School students exhibiting strange Tourette-like symptoms is growing. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health says it has reached out offer a second opinion.

New York State Health Department confirms it has seen 15 cases from LeRoy High School. At Dent specifically, Dr. Mechtler says he has personally seen ten of those cases, including one boy, and he has diagnosed all of them with Conversion Disorder. As a group it's called mass psychogenic illness.

Dr. Mechtler said Friday the National Institutes of Health was coming to town to do additional high-end testing on the students. Tuesday he said, instead, those who choose to will have to travel to the NIH facilities in Bethesda, Maryland, and the travel and testing there will be free of charge.

Dr. Mark Hallett, chief of the NIH Medical Neurology Branch says the NIH reached out to the Dent doctors first. "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."

The second opinion would include a physical examination and possible clinical neurophysiological testing, according to Dr. Hallett, so that doctors there can make their own can make our own diagnosis.

Others who are eligible could also participate in an ongoing Conversion Disorder research study there. The NIH study has been enrolling participants since 2007. All patients must be 18 years of age or older, but Dr. Hallett says an amendment could be made to include more of the LeRoy teens. The patients will have blood tested for two genes that are normally found in healthy individuals to see if they are found more frequently in patients with uncontrolled shaking. They'll also undergo a functional MRI to look at how the brain functions while the subject performs a specific task.

Dr. Mechtler also said he's recommending a world-renowned expert in tic disorders in Rochester for the families to see for a second opinion. "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."

But this coming Sunday, the parents are bringing in their own neurologist for testing. Dr. Rosario Trifiletti specializes in an auto-immune disease called PANDAS. "I have received phone calls about the potential that this may be a significant concern for the health of the girls," says Dr. Mechtler.

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