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Research has slowly been accruing that suggests a significant subset of patients with anorexia nervosa may have a neuroinflammatory condition caused by an infection or autoimmune-type process. Considering case studies documenting potential infections (Kinderlehrer 2021) and recovery after proper treatment (Kinderlehrer 2021), it is vital to better understand the correlations and causative factors linking infection, auto-immunity and disordered eating behaviors.

Support a groundbreaking study!

Dr. Daniel Kinderlehrer is an international expert on lyme disease with published case studies on infections causing anorexia or eating disorders. I will be joining him on a new pilot study. Read on to learn more about the research and ways to support this study.

Anorexia nervosa is the most lethal mental health diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Standard treatment of anorexia nervosa is poorly effective at best. And while there are a multitude of reasons for the challenges anorexia presents, in some cases, patients may be dealing with an infection and autoimmune reaction that leads to disordered eating behaviors and food restrictions (Toufexis 2015).

A large study from 2019 found that serious infections requiring either hospitalization or antimicrobial agents in childhood or adolescence increase the risk for eating disorders significantly in girls (Breithaupt 2019). While the study doesn’t prove causation, it raises important questions about the links between infection and eating disorders. Case reports documenting the onset of anorexia after acute infections and its resolution with treatment also point to a connection between the two (Park 1995, Simon 1998, Kinderlehrer 2021).

Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), a neurological condition caused by an autoimmune reaction to infections, includes anorexia-type symptoms in its definition. Identifying cases of anorexia caused by PANS that can respond to treatment could go a long way to improving clinical outcomes in a subset of patients with anorexia and other eating disorders. Our study proposes to do just that.

Using blood testing to identify exposure to relevant pathogens and potential autoimmune components, we plan to investigate the connection between anorexia nervosa, infection and autoimmunity. The study will check for markers of exposure to streptococcus, mycoplasma, lyme, and other common lyme co-infections. In addition, testing will also measure markers of autoimmune neuropsychiatric syndromes, markers correlated with infection-triggered neuropathology.

In order to complete the study, we need your help.

We estimate the cost of the study at around $150,000, most of which is for laboratory testing. We have arranged for donations to be made to either of the following 501(c)3 non-profit organizations:

  • Colorado Tick-Borne Disease Awareness Association (COTBDAA): Under “Purpose of Donation”, please select “Lyme-Anorexia Research Study”
  • Lyme Disease Association (LDA): Please select “Research – Lyme, Anorexia Nervosa” when donating


Kinderleher DA, Brown N. Microbial Induced Autoimmune Inflammation as a Cause of Mental Illness in Adolescents: A Case Series. Glob J Med Res. 2021;21(1).

Kinderlehrer DA. Anorexia Nervosa Caused by Polymicrobial Tick-Borne Infections: A Case Study. Int Med Case Rep J. 2021;14:279-287. Published 2021 May 10. doi:10.2147/IMCRJ.S311516

Toufexis MD, Hommer R, Gerardi DM, et al. Disordered eating and food restrictions in children with PANDAS/PANS. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2015;25(1):48-56. doi:10.1089/cap.2014.0063

Breithaupt L, Köhler-Forsberg O, Larsen JT, et al. Association of Exposure to Infections in Childhood With Risk of Eating Disorders in Adolescent Girls [published correction appears in JAMA Psychiatry. 2019 May 8;:]. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(8):800-809. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.0297

Park RJ, Lawrie SM, Freeman CP. Post-viral onset of anorexia nervosa. Br J Psychiatry. 1995;166(3):386-389. doi:10.1192/bjp.166.3.386

Simon MW. Anorexia and failure to grow associated with Epstein-Barr virus infection. J Ky Med Assoc. 1998;96(1):13-15.