Susan Swedo

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Susan Swedo is a researcher in the field of pediatrics and neuropsychiatry. Beginning in 1998, she was Chief of the Pediatrics & Developmental Neuroscience Branch at the US National Institute of Mental Health. In 1994, Swedo was lead author on a paper describing pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS), a controversial hypothesis[1] proposing a link between Group A streptococcal infection in children and some rapid-onset cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or tic disorders such as Tourette syndrome.[2] Swedo retired from the NIH in 2019, and serves on the PANDAS Physician Network.[3]


Swedo received a BA degree from Augustana College in 1977, and an MD from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in 1980. Her internship and residency in pediatrics were conducted at the Children’s Memorial Hospital of the McGaw Medical Center of Northwestern University. Following completion of her residency, Swedo served as Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Northwestern until 1986.

In 1986, Swedo she joined Judith L. Rapoport's laboratory as a senior staff fellow in the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). There, she conducted research on pharmacological treatments for childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and was granted tenure in 1992. In 1994, she was named Head of the Section on Behavioral Pediatrics, and from 1995 to 1998 also served as the Acting Scientific Director for NIMH. In 1998, she became Chief of the Pediatrics and Developmental Neuropsychiatry Branch (PDN) at NIMH. At PDN, Swedo conducted research on the causes and treatment of pediatric neuropsychiatric disorders, including OCD, anxiety disorders, and autistic spectrum disorders.

Swedo was a member of the DSM-V task force, which expects to publish an updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2012.

Swedo has won several awards, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Award for Scientific Achievement and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology International Award for Clinical Research.



In 1994, Swedo was lead author on a paper describing Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections (PANDAS).[2] The proposed mechanism, similar to that of rheumatic fever, is one of an inappropriate autoimmune response in the brain, leading to repetitive behaviors. The proportion of cases of these neuropsychiatric disorders, if any, following this mechanism is not clear.[7]

The PANDAS hypothesis is controversial and unproven.[1] As of 2020, the NIH information pages (which Swedo helped write) do not mention the studies that do not support the PANDAS hypothesis.[3]

Autism study[edit]

In September 2006, Swedo launched a study of the widespread but unproven use of chelation therapy, which is based on the hypothesis that the mercury-containing vaccine preservative thiomersal is linked with autism.[8] The trial was to compare the chelator DMSA with placebo, with the social and language skills of the subjects being evaluated after twelve weeks. The trial was halted in February 2007 due to ethical concerns about safety following new evidence of risks of permanent cognitive and emotional problems in otherwise-healthy rodents that were given DMSA.[9]


  • It's Not All In Your Head: The Real Causes and Newest Solutions to Women's Most Common Health Problem ISBN 978-0-06-251287-1
  • Is it "Just a Phase"?: How to Tell Common Childhood Phases from More Serious Problems ISBN 978-0-7679-0391-2


  1. ^ a b Wilbur C, Bitnun A, Kronenberg S, Laxer RM, Levy DM, Logan WJ, Shouldice M, Yeh EA (May 2019). "PANDAS/PANS in childhood: Controversies and evidence". Paediatr Child Health. 24 (2): 85–91. doi:10.1093/pch/pxy145. PMC 6462125. PMID 30996598.
  2. ^ a b Swedo SE, Leonard HL, Kiessling LS (February 1994). "Speculations on antineuronal antibody-mediated neuropsychiatric disorders of childhood". Pediatrics. 93 (2): 323–6. PMID 8121747.
  3. ^ a b Borrell, Brendan (January 2020). "How a controversial condition called PANDAS is gaining ground on autism". Spectrum News. Simons Foundation. Retrieved November 23, 2021.
  4. ^ Susan E. Swedo, M.D., Senior Investigator at the National Institutes of Health
  5. ^ Susan Swedo at the Institute of Medicine Archived 2011-05-27 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Susan Swedo, MD at the American Psychiatric Association
  7. ^ Shulman ST (February 2009). "Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococci (PANDAS): update". Curr. Opin. Pediatr. 21 (1): 127–30. doi:10.1097/MOP.0b013e32831db2c4. PMID 19242249. S2CID 37434919.
  8. ^ "New NIMH research program launches autism trials" (Press release). National Institute of Mental Health. 2006-09-07. Retrieved 2010-01-07.
  9. ^ Stokstad E (2008). "Stalled trial for autism highlights dilemma of alternative treatments". Science. 321 (5887): 326. doi:10.1126/science.321.5887.326. PMID 18635766. S2CID 206581219.