Study Links Guillain-Barré to Zika Virus

James Radke, PhD

A study published in the Lancet provides evidence for a link between Zika virus infection and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
The case control study tested 42 patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome diagnosed at the Centre Hospitalier de Polynésie Française (Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia) during a Zika virus outbreak that occurred in French Polynesia (October 2013 – April 2014). outbreak period. The 42 patients were compared to 2 control groups - those age-matched, sex-matched, and residence-matched patients who presented at the hospital with a non-febrile illness (control group 1; n=98) and age-matched patients with acute Zika virus disease and no neurological symptoms (control group 2; n=70). Virological investigations included RT-PCR for Zika virus, and both microsphere immunofluorescent and seroneutralisation assays for Zika virus and dengue virus. Anti-glycolipid reactivity was studied in patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome using both ELISA and combinatorial microarrays.


Of a 42 patients Guillain-Barré syndrome patients, 41 (98%) had anti-Zika virus IgM or IgG, and all (100%) had neutralizing antibodies against Zika virus. In contrast, 56% (54 of 98) the control group who presented with non-febrile illness had Zika virus IgM.

Past dengue virus history did not differ significantly between patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome and those in the two control groups (95%, 89%, and 83%, respectively).

What does it mean?

This is the first study providing evidence for Zika virus infection causing Guillain-Barré syndrome. As the outbreak of Zika virus continues, more studies looking at the the link between Guillain-Barré syndrome and Zika virus infection are needed. Also needed, according to the authors, is that countries with Zika virus outbreaks should prepare for adequate intensive care beds capacity to manage patients with Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare disorder in which your body's immune system attacks neurons. Weakness and tingling in your extremities are usually the first symptoms and it can often lead to partial or complete paralysis. The condition is usually a medical emergency and requires hospitalization. Fortunately, most people recover from the paralyzing event but some may have lingering symptoms of tingling or fatigue.  The etiology of the condition is not fully understood but it usually occurs following a minor infection.


Cao-Lormeau V-M, Blake A, Mons S, et al. Guillain-Barré Syndrome outbreak associated with Zika virus infection in French Polynesia: a case-control study Lancet. Published Online: 29 February 2016. DOI:
Printer Printing...