A new research study, published in the journal Brain, explores the occasional link between SARS-CoV-2 and Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Following SARS-COV-2 infection, doctors have reported over 90 cases of patients with central and peripheral neurological disorders, including Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). GBS is a rare autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the nerves, causing muscle weakness which may lead to paralysis. The condition is usually triggered by an acute viral or bacterial infection such as the increased incidence of GBS during the 2015-2016 Zika virus pandemic.
The cohort study uses an international collection of GBS patients known as the International GBS Outcome Study from China, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The study included data from 49 patients with GBS, between 30 January 2020 and 30 May 2020. Eleven patients of the 49 (22%) had a confirmed or probable SARS-CoV- 2 infection. Nine of these 11 patients did not show any evidence of prior infection associated with GBS and two had evidence of a recent bacterial infection with Campylobacter jejuni.
The 11 patients experienced facial palsy and had a demyelination form of GBS. The goal of the study was to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 infection is a potential trigger of GBS or whether the reported cases are coincidental.
At hospital admission, 73% of the GBS patients with COVID-19 infection had increased inflammatory markers and fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for both GBS and COVID-19. However, compared to previous years, researchers did not find an increase in patients with GBS during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
Consistent with previous studies, results indicate that the development of GBS is rare following a SARS-CoV-2 infection and, according to the authors, “a strong relationship of GBS with COVID-19 is unlikely. A case-control study is required to determine if there is a causative link or not.”
Guillain-Barré syndrome after SARS-CoV-2 infection in an international prospective cohort study. Brain (London, England : 1878). Published online 2021. doi:10.1093/brain/awab279
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