Does Zika virus cause Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)?

Updated: May 04, 2018
  • Author: Michael T Andary, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Milton J Klein, DO, MBA  more...
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Answer

There has been speculation that the Zika virus can cause GBS. Reported cases of the syndrome began to increase in Brazil during the Zika virus outbreak that was identified there in 2015, with hundreds of cases of GBS reported that year. [36, 37] In July 2015, for example, out of 76 patients in the state of Bahia identified with neurologic syndromes, 42 were confirmed as having GBS, with the symptom history of 26 of these confirmed cases having been consistent with Zika virus infection. [38]

Other Latin American countries to which the Zika outbreak spread, including Colombia, Venezuela, and El Salvador, also reported increases in GBS cases. [37] In El Salvador, where an average of 14 cases of GBS are reported per month, 46 cases were reported between December 1, 2015 and January 6, 2016. [38]  A literature review by Barbi et al estimated that 1.23% of Zika virus cases could develop into GBS. [39]

However, additional research will be required to resolve speculation about the Zika-GBS link. The reliability of Zika virus diagnoses outside of the United States is not known. In the United States, the only infectious disease laboratories capable of making this diagnosis are at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a few state or local health departments. There is currently no commercially available test for Zika virus. [40]


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