Antecedent symptoms in Guillain-Barré syndrome: an important indicator for clinical and serological subgroups

Acta Neurol Scand. 2001 May;103(5):278-87. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0404.2001.103005278.x.


Objectives: To examine whether Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) can be classified in clinical and immunological subgroups based on the type of prior illness. Background - The existence of antecedent symptoms supports the diagnosis of GBS in patients who experience acute muscle weakness progression. However, little is known about additional meanings of determining antecedent symptoms.

Materials and methods: Prospective investigation of prior infectious illness in GBS and related disorders (n=176).

Results: The frequent antecedent symptoms in GBS and related disorders were fever (52%), cough (48%), sore throat (39%), nasal discharge (30%), and diarrhea (27%). Patients who had sore throats or coughs frequently had ophthalmoparesis (respectively P=0.0004, P=0.001) and IgG anti-GQ1b antibody (P=0.01, P=0.007). Fever was associated with bulbar palsy (P=0.047) and headache with facial palsy (P=0.04). Patients with diarrhea often had anti-ganglioside IgG (anti-GM1 [P=0.0006] and anti-GM1b [P=0.008]), IgM (anti-GM1 [P=0.03], anti-GM1b [P=0.02], and anti-GalNAc-GD1a [P=0.047]) antibodies and rarely showed ophthalmoparesis or bulbar palsy (respectively P=0.02, P=0.04). Diarrhea and abdominal pain were closely associated with Campylobacter jejuni serology (respectively P<0.0001, P=0.01), whereas other symptoms were not related to pathogens such as cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, or Mycoplasma pneumoniae.

Conclusions: Our comprehensive study showed that GBS preceded by sore throat, cough, fever, headache, or diarrhea respectively forms clinical or serological subgroups, or both. This association is not necessarily dependent on infection by the known trigger pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cough / etiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Female
  • Fever / etiology
  • G(M1) Ganglioside / analogs & derivatives*
  • G(M1) Ganglioside / immunology*
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / immunology
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / pathology*
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharyngitis / etiology
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Serologic Tests


  • Immunoglobulin G
  • G(M1) Ganglioside
  • ganglioside M1b