Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune disease that falls into the acute polyneuropathy category and is characterised by the immune system attacking the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms of this disease include disorientation, fatigue, lethargy, muscle weakness, numbness, paralysis, pins and needles as well as an overall burning sensation. The pulmonary and cardiovascular systems can also be affected by GBS which can at times prove fatal.
The question of whether or not Guillain Barre Syndrome is contagious is a complex one considering autoimmune diseases are caused by the immune system itself rather than by an infection that the immune system has to fight. It appears that the autoimmune response involved in guillain-barre could, however, be triggered by microbial infection due to instances of this syndrome following bouts of certain bacterial and viral diseases in two thirds of cases.
Campylobacteriosis, caused by an infection of various species in the Campylobacter genus, is one of the most common forms of gastroenteritis and is the principle contagious disease linked to Guillain Barre Syndrome with Campylobacter jejuni identified as the main culprit. The immune system, once exposed to the pathogen, can mistake nerve endings for the bacteria due to molecular mimicry whereby microbial cell components appear similar to nerve cell components.
The Influenza virus, responsible for the contagious disease known as "the Flu", is a known antecedent infection to guillain-barre and is suspected to be a direct cause of the syndrome. The number of new GBS cases often peaks during the colder months of Winter, which is notorious as Cold and Flu season, and there are also possible links between influenza vaccination and GBS due to immunological response to the deactivated virus particles in the vaccine.
Gastrointestinal viral infection, caused by a number of viruses including Norovirus and Rotavirus strains, has been associated with Guillain Barre Syndrome with a handful of instances occurring in the wake of this contagious disease. Patients suffering from guillain-barre reported having suffered from Gastrointestinal viral infection preceding the onset of the syndrome and virus particles were indentified in the fecal samples of some subjects.
Hepatitis E, an infectious virus transmitted through the consumption of food and water contaminated by fecal matter, is named after the liver-inflammation that occurs in infected persons and is thought to be a preceding condition in some individuals suffering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Traces of Hepatitis E antibodies were indentified in some persons suffering from guillain-barre, pointing two a possible link between the pathogen and the autoimmune disorder.
Infectious mononucleosis, also known as Glandular Fever, Mono or Pfeiffer's Disease and referred to in the colloquial vernacular as the "kissing disease", is caused by the Eptsein-Barre virus (EBV) and is transmitted via human secretions such as saliva. The presence of EBV, also known as herpesvirus 4, antibodies in some patients affected by guillain-barre suggests that the virus is a major causative agent in the development of the post-infectious syndrome.
In conclusion, Guillain Barre Syndrome itself is not a contagious disease but can occur as a result of contracting a infectious disease. There is no disease-causing GBS microorganism that can infect others as the syndrome is caused by the sufferer's own immune system. Autoimmune disorders can, however, happen as a consequence of a past immunological reaction to microbial infection and those disease-causing organisms can be infectious.