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Any connection between GBS and AIDS/HIV
Nov 5, 1996

I am recovering from Guillian Barre Syndrom. I had read in someones email in a support group I belong to that there was a connection between AIDS and Guillian Barre Syndrom. I have not seen this mentioned anywhere else but that may not be very surprising due to the rarity of GBS. Can you confirm this connection or not?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. There have indeed been case reports of persons with HIV/AIDS also having Guillian Barre Syndrome (GBS). This syndrome consists of an acute motor muscle weakness in the extremities and the face. Respiratory failure is also sometimes seen with this syndrome. Demyelination of certain nerve cells can cause these nerve cells to slow down or not transmit electrical impulses well, leading to the symptoms of this syndrome.

The cause of this syndrome is believed to have an immunological cause (although this cause is not well understood). In persons with GBS, various antibodies to the myelin of peripheral nerves have been found, as well as circulating immune complexes in the blood. This is quite different from the immune damage seen in persons with AIDS. In regards to treatment for persons with GBS, plasmapheresis (especially when started as early as possible), as well as the use of high-dose immune globulin can make the symptoms of GBS less severe, and shorten the duration of this illness.

There have been studies looking at GBS in persons with HIV, including some studies being done in Africa. There is some suggestion that there may be a link between these two diseases, but one is not directly related to the other. In other words, having GBS does not necessarily mean that you have HIV (and visa versa), although there have been cases of persons with both HIV and GBS. Until more is known regarding what is the immunological cause of GBS, it's hard to say how these two diseases may be linked.

So at this time, it's hard to say what the specific link is between HIV and GBS. All we can say is that there have been cases of GBS in persons with HIV, but more has to be learned before we can say there is a definitive link between these two diseases. Let me emphasize that one does not have to have HIV to have Guillian Barre Syndrome, and GBS seems to be a separate disease related to the immune system.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide). Rick Sowadsky MSPH CDS



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