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Abstract

To clarify the association between Campylobacter jejunei (Cj) infection and antibodies to ganglioside GM1 (anti-GM1) in Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), we have carried out a prospective case-control study of 96 patients with GBS. Cj infection occurred in 25 (26%) patients. IgG and/or IgM anti-GM1 were identified in 24 (25%) patients and in 1 of 71 (1.4%) household controls (p < 0.001). Thirteen of the 25 (52%) Cj-postive patients had anti-GM1 compared with 11 of the 71 (15%) Cj-negative patients (p < 0.001). Neither the peak overall disability nor the 1-year disability differed between the anti-GM1-positive and anti-GM1-negative patients. However, patients with the combimation of Cj infection and anti-GM1 positivity recovered more slowly than Cj/anti-GM1-negative patients (p = 0.05), were more likely to have axonal degeneration, and were significantly more disabled at the end of 1 year (p = 0.02). The presence of Cj infection is more important than anti-GM1 postivity in determining the extent of axonal involvement and, hence, prognosis. Since the presence of anti-GM1 is not a significant poor-prognostic factor, a search should be made for other properties of Cj infection that would account for its relationship to axonal degeneration.