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Food-Borne Illness-Causing Bacterium Campylobacter Jejuni Triggers Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Food-Borne Illness-Causing Bacterium Campylobacter Jejuni Triggers Guillain-Barre Syndrome

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  • Consumption of undercooked chicken can cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), finds a new study.
  • A food-borne bacterium known as Campylobacter jejuni triggers GBS.
  • GBS is an autoimmune disorder that causes weakness and tingling sensations in the feet and legs.

A common bacterium found in undercooked chicken can cause Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), says a study conducted by a research team at Michigan State University.


Food-Borne Illness-Causing Bacterium Campylobacter Jejuni Triggers Guillain-Barre Syndrome

The food-borne bacterium called as Campylobacter jejun causes GBS. The bacterium also offers new information to treat the disease. Bacteria can thrive in chicken that is not cooked to the minimum internal temperature.

Linda Mansfield, the lead author and MSU College of Veterinary Medicine professor, said, "What our work has told us is that it takes a certain genetic makeup combined with a certain Campylobacter strain to cause this disease. The concerning thing is that many of these strains are resistant to antibiotics and our work shows that treatment with some antibiotics could actually make the disease worse."

Link Between Campylobacter and Guillain-Barre Syndrome

GBS is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the nerves. It is the world's leading cause of acute neuromuscular paralysis. The mechanism of how GBS develops is unknown.

The initial symptoms of GBS are vomiting and diarrhea. People with GBS initially experience these two symptoms, but they often relate it with food poisoning. They experience weakness and tingling in the feet and legs after three weeks. Gradually, the upper body and arms become paralyzed, and the individual may need a respirator for breathing.

More than one million Americans are infected by Campylobacter jejuni every year. The bacterium is also known to trigger other autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Reiter's arthritis.

Preclinical Models of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Many other bacteria and viruses have been associated with GBS. The researchers have developed three preclinical models of GBS to study the causes and finding better treatment and prevention options.

"We have successfully produced three preclinical models of GBS that represent two different forms of the syndrome seen in humans. Our models now provide a unique opportunity to understand how your personal genetic type may make you more susceptible to certain forms of GBS," said Mansfield.

"These models hold great potential for discovery of new treatments for this paralysis. Many patients with GBS are critically ill, and they can't participate in clinical trials. The models we identified can help solve this."

The researcher hopes to test drugs against GBS in her models. "New treatments would be wonderful, but therapeutics to prevent GBS from developing in the first place would be the best strategy so that people don't have to suffer from paralysis."

The federally funded research is published in the Journal of Autoimmunity.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre Syndrome is a disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues. Most people develop this disease after having another illness. Some of the common triggers are a viral infection such as common cold, influenza or bacterial infection (Campylobacter). GBS may also occur due to some medical conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus, Hodgkin disease or even surgery.


  • GBS is rare and affects only about one person in 100,000.
  • The syndrome can affect people of all ages. But more common in adults, especially men.
  • GBS could be life-threatening when left untreated.
  • There is no cure for GBS. People with a severe form of GBS may require intensive care and immunological therapies.
  • About 40% of GBS cases are triggered by campylobacteriosis.
Food-Borne Illness

Food-borne illnesses occur due to consumption of food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxins. Food can get contaminated at the processing or preparation stage.

Some of the common food-borne microbes are

  • Salmonella - Bacteria found in undercooked eggs, meat, milk and water. Diarrhea fever and abdominal cramps are common symptoms of Salmonella illness.
  • E. Coli - Escherichia coli can be found in meat and meat products. It causes diarrhea and urinary tract infections.
  • Shigella- It spreads through contaminated food and water. Common symptoms are nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
  • Botulism - Clostridium botulinum bacterium grows on food and produces neurotoxins that can cause paralysis. Common symptoms are fatigue, dizziness and double vision.
  • Campylobacter - It spreads through poultry and milk. It triggers Guillain-Barre Syndrome and the common symptoms are diarrhea (bloody diarrhea in rare cases) and vomiting.
References :

  1. Guillain-Barre syndrome - (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/guillain-barre-syndrome/basics/risk-factors/con-20025832)
  2. Information About Guillain-Barré syndrome - (https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000684.htm)
Source: Medindia

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