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Guillain-Barre syndrome occurs sporadically at any age from early infancy.

It often follows viral infections:

  • cytomegalovirus is most common
  • infectious mononucleosis
  • mumps
  • measles
  • echovirus
  • coxsackie virus
  • influenza virus infections

The viral illness has usually run its course by the time the neurological symptoms appear, and there is no evidence for viral invasion of the nervous system. About 2.5% of cases occur in patients with autoimmune disorders, including systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Other associations include:

  • campylobacter jejuni
  • mycoplasma pneumoniae
  • salmonella
  • immunisations with both live and dead vaccines
  • trauma
  • surgery
  • rarely, malignancy


(1) J Neuroimmunol 1999 Dec;100(1-2):74-97 Pathogenesis of Guillain-Barre syndrome. Hughes RA, Hadden RD, Gregson NA, Smith KJ.

Last reviewed 07/2021