Autistic History: Susan Swedo

Susan Swedo is a pediatric and neuropsychiatry reseracher. Starting in 1988, she has been the Chief of Pediatrics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch of the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). In 1994, Swedo was the lead author on a paper, Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS). It proposed the link between group A strep infections in children to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Tourette syndrome in children.

Swedo earned a bachelers of art from Agustana College in 1977. She also recieved a MD degree from Southern Illinois University School of medicine in 1980. Her residency in pediatrics was at the Children’s Memorial Hospital of the McGaw Medical Center at Northwestern University.

After she completed her residency, Swedo served as Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Northwestern University until 1986. She then joined Judith L. Rapoport’s laboratory as senior staff fellow in the Child Psychiatry Branch of NIHM. When she was there, she conducted research on pharmacological treatments for childhood OCD. She proposed it was similar to rheumatic fever. She said it was an inappropriate autoimmune response in the brain and this leads to repetitive behaviors. This mechanism is not clear.

She was granted tenure in 1992. In 1994, Swedo was the Head of Behavioral Pediatrics. From 1995 to 1998 she served as the Acting Scientific Director fro NIMH. In 1998, she was the Chief of the Pediatrics and Developmental Neuropsychiatry Branch at NIMH. At Pediatrics and Developmental Neuropsychiatry, Swedo conducted research on the causes of OCD, anxiety, and autism.

Swedo was a member of the DSM-V task force. It was already published. It is an updated version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Swedo has won several awards. They are American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry Award for Scientific achievement and the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology International Award for Clinical Research. She has written “Its Not all In Your Head: The Real Causes and Newest Solutions to Women’s Most Common Health Problems.” She co-authored “Is it Just a Phase? How to Tell Common Childhood Phases from More Serious Problems.”

In September of 2006, Swedo launched a widespread but unproven use of chelation therapy. This was based on the hypothesis that mercury containing vaccine preservative thiomersal is linked with autism. The trial was to compare the chelator DMSA with a placebo. It was to see if the social or language skills of the test subjects improved after 12 weeks. The trial was halted in February 2007 due to ethical concerns about safety following the new evidence of risks of permanent cognitive and emotional problems in otherwise healthy rodents that were give the DMSA.

In 2016, Swedo was a speaker at Autism One.


  1. Jump up to:a b c Swedo SE, Leonard HL, Kiessling LS (February 1994). “Speculations on antineuronal antibody-mediated neuropsychiatric disorders of childhood”. Pediatrics93 (2): 323–6. PMID 8121747.
  2. ^ Susan E. Swedo, M.D., Senior Investigator at the National Institutes of Health
  3. ^ Susan Swedo at the Institute of Medicine Archived 2011-05-27 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Susan Swedo, MD at the American Psychiatric Association
  5. ^ Shulman ST (February 2009). “Pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococci (PANDAS): update”. Curr. Opin. Pediatr21 (1): 127–30. doi:10.1097/MOP.0b013e32831db2c4PMID 19242249.
  6. ^ “New NIMH research program launches autism trials” (Press release). National Institute of Mental Health. 2006-09-07. Retrieved 2010-01-07.
  7. ^ Stokstad E (2008). “Stalled trial for autism highlights dilemma of alternative treatments”. Science321 (5887): 326. doi:10.1126/science.321.5887.326PMID 18635766.

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