Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare neurological disorder which causes progressive paralysis, starting from the feet and progressing up throughout the rest of the affected person’s body (ascending paraplegia). It occurs when the body's immune system attacks the peripheral nerves in the body. This is known as an autoimmune disease and can be triggered following a surgical infection, or by a flu-like illness or stomach infection. As the immune system fights off the infection, it mistakenly attacks the peripheral nerves.
GBS affects men and women of all ethnicities and ages. Treatment is available for the condition and 80% of those affected recover with minor or no neurologic deficits (lasting damage to the nervous system). More severe cases of the condition require emergency medical treatment, admission to hospital, and longer rehabilitation periods. About 10 to 15% of affected people will have major damage to the nervous system. The neurologic damage can range from having difficulty running or walking, to difficulty breathing – some patients may need permanent use of a respirator. About 5% of affected individuals will die.