It’s a “Gene-Environment-Immune Complex”….How Mycotoxins impact Lyme, Autism and PANS

Mycotoxins from mold can invade the body thru exposure to contaminated food and water, respiratory inhalation of spores and through contact with mucous and cutaneous membranes.

Decades of data link mycotoxins as a neurotoxic and immunotoxic inducing agent. In fact, several studies that examined the neurocognitive impact of mycotoxin exposure in children show a higher incidence of neurotoxic mold in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Additionally, children exposed to mold for more than two years show a statistically significant drop of 10 IQ points when compared with their mold free counterparts. Extensive exposure in both children and adult show increased pain syndromes, movement disorders like Chorea and Parkinson’s disease as well as neurocognitive disorders akin to dementia and delirium.

Knowing the neurological and immunological effects of mycotoxins from mold exposure, how does it affect those with behavioral, neurological disorders like ASD, autoimmune encephalopathy and pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS)?

Multiple studies link pathobiology of mold/mycotoxins specifically to Autism and other symptoms that mimic Autism like PANS and autoimmune encephalopathy. Mycotoxins play a gene-environment interaction that is thought to contribute to dysfunctional progression of neurodevelopment.

The mycotoxins once in the body elucidates a strong immune reaction leading to significantly elevated cytokines. These cytokines permeate throughout the body and often cross over the blood brain barrier. Those exposed can experience increased GI permeability or “leaky gut”, elevated oxidative stress responses and inflammation. This appears to stem in the gut where the mycotoxins provoke a reactive oxygen species release in the epithelial cells which line the inner gut wall. The mycotoxins will colonize in the GI system, disrupting the healthy normal flora. As a result of this disruption, a chronic inflammatory response occurs.

Many studies show the link between chronic gut inflammation and neurological and psychological ailments like depression, anxiety, OCD all common symptoms of ASD, neuro-Lyme and PANS/Autoimmune Encephalopathy.

Other studies link mycotoxins to increased autoimmune disorders and development of autoantibodies in the brain. When this occurs, the nervous system is inflamed leading to significant cognitive struggles, brain fog, mood disorders and involuntary tics and movement disorders. This is the typical progression of Autoimmune Encephalopathy, PANS and some components of ASD.

So how does this connect with Lyme?

Applying the inflammatory, immune and GI effects of mycotoxin illness to Lyme simply adds another layer of symptom severity. Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses are known to provoke an inflammatory cytokine response. Borrelia Burgdorferi specifically provokes anti-neuronal antibodies which can travel peripherally causing brain inflammation. The inflammatory response of tick-borne illnesses like Lyme can further trigger leaky gut and blood brain barrier permeability. More circulating cytokines begets increased inflammation and the vicious cycle continues.

Any significant trigger of chronic inflammation in the body can trigger neuroinflammation and leaky gut. Most individuals can weather the storm with intact immune systems. Those unfortunate to house genes linked to ASD, methylation dysfunction and/or those afflicted with Lyme, Mold or both struggles to clear the inflammation, compounding the symptomatic response.

A study by DeSantis and others studied 52 Autistic children compared to 58 neurotypical children. Results showed the ASD children had a significantly higher mycotoxin load, specifically Ochratoxin A. 

Many integrative providers believe in the Gut-Brain and inflammation connection. This study like many others support this theory and what we as providers see in clinical practice.

We welcome you to contact our office 212-288-8832 for more information and to schedule your one-on-one evaluation and treatment option appointment with one of our clinicians.


Written by Somer DelSignore NP


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