For the first time, a common bacterium present in improperly cooked chicken meat was shown to cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

In a study published in the journal Autoimmunity, lead author Linda Mansfield and colleagues not only demonstrated that the food-borne bacterium Campylobacter jejuni leads to Guillain-Barre Syndrome but they also shed light on how treatment interventions can be carried out for more effective results.

The study received funding support from the Enterics Research Investigational Network at the National Institutes of Health.

Food-borne Bacterium Causing Disease

Campylobacter jejuni infects over a million people every year in the United States. Aside from being a potential cause of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, it has also been identified as a trigger for other autoimmune conditions like Reiter's arthritis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

"What our work has told us is that it takes a certain genetic makeup combined with a certain Campylobacter strain to cause this disease," said Mansfield.

Additionally, their findings showed that using antibiotics as treatment can actually make Guillain-Barre Syndrome worse, aggravating neurological signs and lesions, as well as the number of antibodies that mistakenly attack the patient's own tissues and organs.

Despite Guillain-Barre Syndrome being the leading cause of acute neuromuscular paralysis, it remains a mysterious condition, with exact mechanisms underlying its development still widely unknown. However, the models the researchers used offer a unique chance to understand how personal genetics plays a role in determining susceptibility to certain types of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Treating Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Treatment options exist to address Guillain-Barre Syndrome but choices are limited and a lot fail in many cases. What's also concerning is that the current study was able to show as well that using certain antibiotics is not only ineffective in treating the disease but can even make it worse.

The researchers are optimistic that the models in their study hold a lot of potential to aid in the development of new treatment options. As such, they are eager to get started on testing drugs against Guillain-Barre Syndrome right away to see how their models will stack up.

Mansfield said that creating new treatment options is wonderful but preventing Guillain-Barre Syndrome from developing in the first place is the better strategy as this will prevent people from suffering paralysis.

Initially, those suffering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome experience diarrhea and vomiting, which makes it look like a simple case of eating bad food. However, one to three weeks later, tingling and weakness in the legs and feet begin, gradually leading to paralysis that spreads to the arms and upper body. Sometimes, even breathing can be paralyzed, leading to the need for a respirator to ensure airflow into and out of the body.

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