What is Guillain-Barré Syndrome? Ex-Putin aide develops a rare disorder

A former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been hospitalized with a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).

Anatoly Chubais was the former head of Russia’s presidential administration – a senior adviser to Putin. However, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, he resigned and fled the country.

Chubais officially resigned from his top-flight position in March. It wasn’t explained why at the time, but it was one of the few resignations in the Kremlin after the start of the war.

On July 31, a Russian television personality, Ksenia Sobchak, reported that Chubais was in intensive care with the disorder.

Chubais had suddenly become unwell and noticed numbness in his legs and hands New York Timesreported.

A photo shows Anatoly Chubais in St. Petersburg in 2014. The former adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin was hospitalized with a rare neurological condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
OLGA MALTSEVA / Stringers/Getty

What is GBS?

GBS is a disorder in which the immune system attacks part of its own nervous system — specifically the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord.

It’s very rare. The CDC estimates that 3,000 to 6,000 US citizens are affected annually.

Cases vary and can be very mild or very severe. Severe cases can be devastating and cause paralysis.

Although it is unclear what condition Chubais is in, the paralysis can sometimes prevent a person from breathing independently.

Scientists don’t know the exact cause of GBS — it’s not inherited or contagious.

There are several conditions that can lead to GBS. According to the CDC, about two out of three people experience diarrhea or a respiratory illness a few weeks before the onset of the disease.

Infection with the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni, which causes food poisoning and subsequent diarrhea, is considered one of the most common causes of the disease.

According to the CDC, 1 in 1,000 people infected with the bacterium will subsequently get GBS.

Some people who develop the disease also report having viral infections several weeks beforehand. Some notable viruses are cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus and Zika virus.

Also, people have contracted GBS after receiving certain vaccines, and reports of GBS increased in 1976 after a major swine flu vaccination campaign.

However, the CDC emphasizes that this is incredibly rare. The organization calculated that there were 1 to 2 extra GBS cases for every million flu shot doses.

What are the symptoms?

The first telltale signs of GBS are tingling in the hands or feet. Sometimes pain in the legs or back can occur.

Children may have trouble walking if they develop GBS.

Tingling often goes away before severe symptoms manifest. Sufferers may then experience weakness in the body, including the respiratory muscles and face.

Patients with GBS may also experience difficulty with their eye muscles and vision, as well as with swallowing, speaking, and eating. Some people may not be able to control their bladder, and occasionally people may feel unsteady on their feet.

Although symptoms can be severe and serious, 70 percent of people usually make a full recovery if they receive medical care, according to the CDC. Some individuals with particularly severe cases may suffer from long-term weakness, but even those who experience respiratory failure usually survive.

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