Guillain-Barré Syndrome (42 Cases) Occurring During a Zika Virus Outbreak in French Polynesia

Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 Apr;95(14):e3257. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000003257.


Zika virus (transmitted by mosquitoes) reached French Polynesia for the first time in 2013, leading to an epidemic affecting 10% of the total population. So far, it has not been known to induce any neurological complications, but, a few weeks after the outbreak, an unexpectedly high number of 42 patients presented with Guillain-Barré syndrome.We report the clinical and electrophysiological characteristics of this series. Males predominated with a sex ratio of 2.82 (mean age: 46). All patients (except 2) were native Polynesian. At admission, 55% were able to walk unaided against 38% at nadir, 24% had swallowing troubles (nadir: 45%), 74% had motor weakness of the limbs (nadir: 86%) and deep tendon reflexes were diminished or not found in the vast majority of patients. Mean duration of the progressive phase and of the plateau phase was respectively 7 and 9 days. Thirty-eight percent of the patients were admitted in intensive care unit and 10 patients underwent tracheotomy. Nerve electrophysiological studies at admission showed marked distal motor conduction alterations, which had almost completely disappeared at the 4th month; this pattern was more suggestive of acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) than of acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (AIDP). Lumbar puncture showed elevated proteins in 90% of the cases, with cell count always inferior to 50/μL.This epidemic raises several questions, such as the potential existence of interactions between Zika virus and Polynesian HLA system and/or the consequences of several recombination events of this virus. This situation should call for increased vigilance, especially in countries where Aedes mosquitoes are present.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Female
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome / virology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polynesia / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Zika Virus Infection / complications*
  • Zika Virus Infection / epidemiology*