According to a study released today, infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 may increase the risk of getting Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare illness in which the immune system attacks the nerves, producing muscle weakness and occasionally paralysis.
Researchers and public health officials have reported neurological issues connected to COVID-19, in addition to the well-known severe respiratory indications and the potential of long-term consequences.
Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), an autoimmune disorder that can last weeks or years, is a rare but serious condition. An acute bacterial or viral infection causes the syndrome.
“Our findings show that COVID-19 may, in rare cases, precede Guillain-Barre syndrome,” stated Bart C Jacobs of the University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
“However, the presence of a true link or causal relationship must yet be demonstrated,” one of the paper’s authors, Jacobs, stated.
Over 90 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome have been diagnosed as a result of a potential COVID-19 infection since the outbreak began.
The researchers say it’s unknown whether COVID-19 is another possible viral trigger or whether the observed cases are coincidental.
Researchers investigated patients from January 30 to May 30, 2020, using an international collection of Guillain-Barre syndrome patients known as the International GBS Outcome Study (or IGOS).
During this time, the study enrolled 49 new Guillain-Barre syndrome patients from China, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
According to the researchers, 22% of the Guillain-Barre syndrome patients included in this study, which was published in the journal Brain, had a previous COVID-19 infection within the first four months of the pandemic.
These patients were all over 50 years old, and they frequently (65%) had facial palsy (64%) and had a demyelination form of GBS, according to the researchers.
According to the study, 73 percent of Guillain-Barre patients with a COVID-19 infection had elevated inflammatory markers at the time of admission to the hospital.
All of these patients met both the Guillain-Barre syndrome and COVID-19 diagnostic criteria.
The researchers did observe, however, that throughout the first four months of the epidemic, they did not detect any more patients with Guillain-Barre syndrome than in previous years.
This shows that, while a substantial link between a COVID-19 infection and Guillain-Barre syndrome is unlikely, a COVID-19 infection may lead to the development of the disorder in certain patients, they added.