The principal investigators from the study are Dr. Evelyn Stewart and Dr. Clare Beasley. They’re conducting the study with the assistance of their clinical and research team from BC Children’s Hospital and the University of British Columbia.
The purpose of this study is to determine whether levels of salivary defence system components (antibodies, antimicrobial peptides, and pro-inflammatory cytokines) are altered in patients with childhood-onset OCD compared to matched healthy controls. Recent work suggests that the function of the immune system - a complex network of cells and signaling molecules that limits infection, promotes tissue healing, and also impacts brain development and function - may be dysregulated in OCD. Preliminary studies have reported higher rates of infections and other immune-mediated diseases among children with OCD, as well as abnormal markers of immune function such as low antibody levels and altered production of inflammatory proteins. Intriguingly, saliva – a body fluid that plays a critical role in defending against pathogens and is easily accessible for sampling – may provide a valuable non-invasive tool for studying immune function.
Our proposed study will be the first to examine potential biomarkers in an easily accessible fluid reflecting mucosal and systemic immune function in OCD, a devastating mental illness with predominantly childhood onset and significant associated social and economic costs.
Patients will be recruited through the BC Children’s Hospital Provincial OCD Program clinic and healthy controls will be recruited from the community. Clinical data collected will include an oral health survey, body mass index, smoking status, medication use, and current OCD severity. Saliva sample collection and storage is carried out by the BC Children’s Hospital BioBank.
This work will add to our understanding of potential immune dysregulation underlying OCD. Disease-associated changes in peripheral immune markers may ultimately facilitate identification of subgroups of patients who may benefit from targeted immune-modulating therapies.