Immune disorders occurring during the early stage of life correlate with a future risk for Guillain-Barré syndrome, according to study findings published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

In this longitudinal study, investigators identified 1,108,541 women with known risk factors for Guillain-Barré syndrome. These risk factors included cancer, history of pregnancy-specific disorders, and immune-mediated and rheumatologic diseases.

Overall, the incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome per 100,000 person-years was 1.42 (95% CI, 1.24-1.61). Among women who had immune-mediated or rheumatologic diseases, the rate was higher at 8.79 (95% CI, 4.87-15.87) and 9.84 (95% CI, 4.42-21.90), respectively, per 100,000 person-years.

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According to the investigators, rheumatologic-related disorders resulted in 7 times the risk for Guillain-Barré syndrome (hazard ratio [HR] 7.23; 95% CI, 3.21-16.28), comparable to that of immune-mediated disorders, which were associated with 6 times the risk (HR 6.57; 95% CI, 3.58-12.04). Preeclampsia was the only pregnancy-related disorder that elevated the risk for Guillain-Barré syndrome (2.62 per 100 000 person-years).

The investigators did not collect information on prior infections among female participants, representing a potential study limitation. Additionally, the researchers mention that they were unable to evaluate rheumatologic and immune-related diseases separately because of the small number of cases included in the analysis.

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Although infections and vaccinations as triggers for Guillain-Barré syndrome remain the primary focus, the investigators suggest this study may unlikely result in “significant advances in prevention and management without better knowledge of predisposing factors.”

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Auger N, Quach C, Healy-Profitós J, Dinh T, Chassé M. Early predictors of Guillain-Barré syndrome in the life course of women [published online September 2, 2017]. Int J Epidemiol. doi:10.1093/ije/dyx181

This article originally appeared on Neurology Advisor