The increasing number of instances of GBS has been tweeted about by several doctors on X (previously Twitter). A recent uptick in GBS cases is said to be seasonal. There have been reports of patients being told by their doctors that GBS might be the result of either COVID-19 or immunization. Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a highly uncommon condition affecting the peripheral nervous system. This illness is typically triggered by a bacterial or viral infection.
One to two people per one hundred thousand are diagnosed with GBS each year; this immune-mediated neuropathy is relatively standard. Dr.Sahil Kohli, Principal Consultant -Neurology, Max Hospital, Gurugram, states that while males are at a little higher risk, the disease primarily affects youngsters, young adults, and those older than 55.
GBS is caused by an immune reaction to a past infection or other occurrence reacting with comparable epitopes on peripheral nerves (a process known as molecular mimicry), as explained by Dr. Puja Kushwah, Senior Consultant – Neurosciences, Metro Hospitals & Heart Institute, Noida. Up to two-thirds of patients report such triggers in their lives. Common causes of GBS include Campylobacter jejuni infection, Cytomegalovirus, Influenza A and B, HIV, COVID-19 Virus, and Zika virus. Dr. Kushwah cites the varicella-zoster virus, Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis E virus, chikungunya virus, and Japanese encephalitis virus as examples of rare diseases that might lead to GBS.
Dr. Kohli describes GBS symptoms: Weakness or soreness in the legs is typically the first sign. It’s characterised by a weakness that starts at the extremities and works its way up the body to the hands; in severe cases, it can even affect the respiratory system, making it hard for the patient to breathe without assistance.
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An infection is typically followed by the onset of GBS, an autoimmune neuropathy. Up to 18% of instances of upper respiratory infections have been linked to Cytomegalovirus (CMV). A pneumonia-like infection may be to blame. “In the current scenario, where we have a lot of dengue cases, it is very common to see,” adds Dr. Kohli. “So, in dengue, it is almost six times more common,” he says.
Because COVID-19 is a virus, just like any other virus, it can cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome. At the height of the COVID pandemic, there were reports of COVID testing positive in GBS patients. Dr. Kohli confirms that GBS is “one of the neurological manifestations that we see of COVID-19,” therefore the answer to the original question is “yes.”
Both infection with COVID-19 and vaccination against COVID have been linked to GBS. An additional unusual complication of COVID-19 infection is Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). Both the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson and the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been linked to cases of GBS in the United States and Europe. Dr. Kushwah says that the risk of developing GBS after infection is higher than the risk of developing GBS after immunisation due to observational evidence.
GBS is triggered not just by COVID, other diseases, and the COVID vaccine, but also by other vaccines, such as the flu shot, the meningitis shot, the zoster vaccine, the adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccine, and the recombinant zoster vaccine. Rare cases of GBS have been linked to secondary events including surgery, trauma, or bone marrow transplantation. Dr. Kushwah further notes that sarcoidosis, Hodgkin lymphoma, and lupus all have been linked to GBS.
Dr. Kohli says that 85–90% of patients can make a full recovery with treatment. We are observing an increase in the number of instances with GBS. As a result of increased awareness, he notes, both IVIG and plasmapheresis are being considered as potential treatments for the condition.