Report details COVID-19 as trigger of recurrent Guillain–Barré syndrome

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Researchers from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School reported the first instance of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) triggering a recurrence of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare disorder where the body's immune system attacks nerves and can lead to respiratory failure and death, in a recent case report published in the journal Pathogens.

While there have been several reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome following COVID-19, this is the first in which COVID-19 triggered a recurrence of the condition, the report states. The case was a 54-year-old man who had suffered with Guillain-Barré syndrome twice and had a third occurrence after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the report.

Researchers looked at about 1,200 hospital patients diagnosed with COVID-19 who were admitted and discharged between March and May of 2020 and this was the only instance where COVID-19 triggered the recurrence of Guillain-Barré syndrome, the researchers said.

Guillain-Barré syndrome can follow acute viral and bacterial infections, causing symptoms including weakness and tingling in the extremities. As the condition worsens, the weakness quickly spreads, eventually sometimes paralyzing the whole body. While most people recover from the condition, about 5 percent of people experience a recurrence, according to researchers.

"We recommend that patients who develop COVID-19 and have a history of autoimmune [demyelinating] disorders in which the body's immune system attacks the myelin that insulates and protects their nerves be closely observed for several weeks for neurologic symptoms," said Payal Parikh, MD, lead author of the study and assistant professor at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in a statement.

The findings, the authors said, could improve the understanding of the spectrum of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which may be trigged by acute viral or bacterial infection, and potentially help create treatments for COVID-19 patients.  

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