Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) is an inflammatory disorder of the nerves, excluding the brain and spinal column. It is also called acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, acute idiopathic polyradiculneuritis, acute idiopathic polyneuritis and Landry's ascending paralysis.
The symptoms are ascending weakness with abnormal sensations and then paralysis of the legs, arms, face and possibly breathing muscles. It is rarely fatal but there is no direct cure and recovery may need care in a intensive care unit and can take years (although people can recover in a few weeks as as well).
The cause of GBS is not known. It is suggested that it is an autoimmune disease, in which the sufferer's immune system is triggered into damaging the nerve covering. There is some support for this in that half of all cases occur soon after a microbial infection or respiratory or gastrointestinal viral infection. Many cases developed in people who received the 1976 swine flu vaccine.
GBS is a rare - affecting about 1 to 2 people in every 100,000 per year. It does not discriminate with regard to the age or sex of sufferers.
The disease was first described by the French physician Jean Landry in 1859. In 1916, Georges Guillain, Jean Alexander Barre and Andre Strohl discovered the key diagnostic abnormality of increased spinal fluid protien production, but normal cell count.