Guillain-Barré Syndrome | Demyelinating Disorders | JAMA | JAMA Network
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JAMA Patient Page
January 19, 2011

Guillain-Barré Syndrome

JAMA. 2011;305(3):319. doi:10.1001/jama.305.3.319

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare autoimmune neurological disease in which the body' immune system produces antibodies against its own nerves, resulting in damage to them. It is named after 2 French doctors who described this syndrome for the first time in 2 soldiers during World War I. Cases of GBS may develop after an infection (for example, an upper respiratory or gastrointestinal illness). It is thought that the body makes antibodies to protect itself against an invading bacterium or virus. However, certain bacteria and viruses have protein coverings that resemble some normal proteins on the sheath that wraps around nerves (myelin sheath). This can lead to the bodys immune system attacking ones own nerves. The swine flu vaccine used in 1976 was associated with several cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome. The new types of flu vaccines have not had such an effect.