Risk for Guillain-Barré Syndrome Associated With Early Life Immune-Mediated Disorders

Hand xrays showing advanced rheumatoid arthritis
Hand xrays showing advanced rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatological disorders were associated with a 7-fold risk of developing Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Immune disorders occurring during the early stage of life correlate with a future risk for Guillain-Barré syndrome, according to study findings published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

In this longitudinal study, investigators identified 1,108,541 women with known risk factors for Guillain-Barré syndrome. These risk factors included cancer, history of pregnancy-specific disorders, and immune-mediated and rheumatologic diseases.


Overall, the incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome per 100,000 person-years was 1.42 (95% CI, 1.24-1.61). Among women who had immune-mediated or rheumatologic diseases, the rate was higher at 8.79 (95% CI, 4.87-15.87) and 9.84 (95% CI, 4.42-21.90), respectively, per 100,000 person-years.

According to the investigators, rheumatologic-related disorders resulted in 7 times the risk for Guillain-Barré syndrome (hazard ratio [HR] 7.23; 95% CI, 3.21-16.28), comparable to that of immune-mediated disorders, which were associated with 6 times the risk (HR 6.57; 95% CI, 3.58-12.04). Preeclampsia was the only pregnancy-related disorder that elevated the risk for Guillain-Barré syndrome (2.62 per 100 000 person-years).

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The investigators did not collect information on prior infections among female participants, representing a potential study limitation. Additionally, the researchers mention that they were unable to evaluate rheumatologic and immune-related diseases separately because of the small number of cases included in the analysis.

Although infections and vaccinations as triggers for Guillain-Barré syndrome remain the primary focus, the investigators suggest this study may unlikely result in “significant advances in prevention and management without better knowledge of predisposing factors.”


Auger N, Quach C, Healy-Profitós J, Dinh T, Chassé M. Early predictors of Guillain-Barré syndrome in the life course of women [published online September 2, 2017]. Int J Epidemiol. doi:10.1093/ije/dyx181