No Causal Link Found for COVID-19, Guillain-Barré Syndrome

Illustration of antibodies (red and blue) responding to an infection with the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (purple). The virus emerged in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and causes a mild respiratory illness (covid-19) that can develop into pneumonia and be fatal in some cases. The coronaviruses take their name from their crown (corona) of surface proteins, which are used to attach and penetrate their host cells. Once inside the cells, the particles use the cells’ machinery to make more copies of the virus. Antibodies bind to specific antigens, for instance viral proteins, marking them for destruction by other immune cells.
There seems to be no causal association between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).

HealthDay News — There seems to be no causal association between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), according to a study published online Dec. 14 in Brain.

Noting that reports of GBS have emerged during the pandemic, Stephen Keddie, M.B., B.S., from University College London, and colleagues studied the epidemiology of GBS cases reported to the U.K. National Immunoglobulin Database from 2016 to 2019 and compared these cases to those reported during the COVID-19 pandemic. In parallel, incident cases of GBS reported during the pandemic were examined, and COVID-19-associated and non-COVID-19-associated GBS cases in the cohort were compared.

The researchers found that from 2016 to 2019, the incidence of GBS in U.K. hospitals was 1.65 to 1.88 per 100,000 individuals per year. In 2020, there was variation in the incidence of GBS and COVID-19 between regions, with no correlation with one another. The incidence of GBS decreased between March and May 2020 compared with the same months of 2016 to 2019. In an independent cohort of 47 GBS cases (13 definite COVID-19, 12 probable COVID-19, 22 non-COVID-19), no significant differences were seen in the pattern of weakness, time to nadir, neurophysiology, cerebrospinal fluid findings, or outcome between the groups. Intubation occurred more often in the COVID-19-affected cohort (54 versus 23 percent).

“Our epidemiological study shows there was no increased incidence in GBS during the first wave of COVID-19; rather, there was a decrease and therefore no causal link of COVID-19 to GBS can be made,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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