Newswise — Although vaccines have reduced morbidity and mortality from many infections, several cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) have been reported following vaccination.

A team of medical researchers at the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Research Center set out to determine the occurrence and characteristics of GBS after isolated reports of the syndrome were found in patients who had received vaccinations. GBS is an inflammatory disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The first symptoms of this disorder include varying degrees of weakness or tingling sensations in the legs. In many instances the weakness and abnormal sensations spread to the arms and upper body. These symptoms increase in intensity until certain muscles cannot be used at all and, when severe, the patient is almost totally paralyzed.

The research data was obtained from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) which is a cooperative program for vaccine safety of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The VAERS is a post-marketing safety surveillance program, collecting information about possible side effects that occur after administration of United States licensed vaccines.

There were 54 cases of GBS reported after vaccination in the United States in 2004. The number of vaccine related cases constituted 0.1% of the total admissions for GBS in the United States. Of the 54 cases studied, Guillain-Barre syndrome was observed in 57% of the patients who had received an influenza vaccine, followed by 22 % of the patients who had received a hepatitis vaccine either as a single vaccine or in combination with other vaccines. In the same study group, 11% of the patients with GBS had received the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine in combination with other vaccines, with the remaining study cases having received haemophilis B conjugate vaccine, tetanus and diphtheria toxoid, or typhoid vaccine. Up to 20 % of the patients developed GBS after receiving more than one type of vaccine.

According to Dr. Nizar Souayah, lead investigator and Assistant Professor of Neurology, New Jersey Medical School, "The benefits of receiving vaccinations far outnumber the risks. Few studies had been attempted to address the relationship between vaccination and GBS and most had focused only on the influenza vaccine. It is important to determine which vaccines may be associated with GBS."

The results of the study suggest that vaccines other than influenza can be associated with GBS.

The complete findings and results of the study are being presented at the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM) 53rd Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, at the Marriott Wardman Park, October 11-14, 2006. The AANEM is the largest organization worldwide, with over 5000 members, dedicated to advancing neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, and electrodiagnostic medicine.

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American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine Annual Meeting