Guillain–Barré Syndrome following Primary Cytomegalovirus Infection: A Prospective Cohort Study

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(See editorial commentary by Lunn and Hughes on pages 845–847)Background. Little is known about the epidemiology and the prognostic factors of Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS) following primary infection with cytomegalovirus (CMV-GBS).Methods. We prospectively followed up 506 patients with cases of GBS who were admitted to our center from 1996 through 2006. We diagnosed 63 (12.4%) CMV-GBS cases by immunoglobulin (Ig) M detection and IgG avidity. Plasma CMV DNA was detected at hospital admission. Patient subgroups were compared using Fisher's exact test and the Wilcoxon rank-sum test. Temporal variations were analyzed with time series methods.Results. Patients with CMV-GBS were mostly young (median age, 32 years; sex ratio, 0.85), but we also identified a subpopulation of patients consisting of women aged >50 years. Sensory defects (in 72% of cases) and facial palsy (49%) were frequent, and test results positive for CMV DNA in plasma at hospital admission (found in 62% of cases) tended to be associated with objective sensory defect (P = .052). The main factors associated with long-term neurological sequelae (21%) were older age (P < .001) and assisted ventilation during hospitalization (P = .005). The number of CMV-GBS cases decreased between 1996 and 2006 (P = .019) and displayed an annual periodicity between the months of July and October. The incidence of CMV-GBS was estimated to be between 0.6 and 2.2 cases per 1000 cases of primary CMV infection (versus 0.25 to 0.65 cases per 1000 cases of Campylobacter jejuni infection).Conclusions. This study provides new insights about the epidemiology of CMV-GBS and shows that the risk of developing GBS is similar following primary CMV infection or C. jejuni infection. Our results also suggest a direct or indirect involvement of viral replication in the neuropathological processes of CMV-GBS.

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