Guillain-Barre syndrome, influenza, and influenza vaccination: the epidemiologic evidence

Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Apr;58(8):1149-55. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciu005. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is the most common cause of acute flaccid paralysis worldwide, and is thought to be immune-mediated. It is preceded by upper respiratory or gastrointestinal infection in about two-thirds of cases and is associated with some viral infections, including influenza. GBS has also been associated with the 1976 swine-influenza vaccine. Thereafter, some studies have shown a small increased risk of GBS following receipt of seasonal and 2009 H1N1 monovalent influenza vaccines. Studies over the years have also shown an increased risk of GBS following influenza infection, and the magnitude of risk is several times greater than that following influenza vaccination. Because GBS is rare, and even rarer following vaccination, it is difficult to estimate precise risk. We try to shed light on the complex relationship of GBS and its association with influenza and influenza vaccines over the past 35 years.

Keywords: Guillain-Barré syndrome; influenza; influenza vaccination.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / chemically induced*
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Influenza Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • Influenza, Human / complications*
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control
  • Vaccination / adverse effects*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data


  • Influenza Vaccines