Guillian Barret Syndrome and Honey
Name: R. E. Post, Jr.
Is there any evidence that Guillian Barret syndrome is
associated with ingestion of unpasturized honey?
The syndrome is of unknown etiology with some association with certain
viral conditions such as mononucleosis.
Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Office of Science
Department of Energy
Guillain Barre syndrom (GBS) is an autoimmune disease
in which your immune system starts to degrade neural
cells. This causes paralysis of the limbs, which is
mostly temporarily. The disease can be severe and most
patients need to be hospitalized. It can be lethal in
The cause is not completely clarified but is most
frequently a prior infection by a virus or a
bacterium. Several viruses and bacteria can lead to
GBS although they would normally colonize the gut.
Often the bacteria are already gone by the time GBS
starts to become apparent. It is believed that certain
antigens present on the microorganism resemble
structures present on our neural cells, so that the
antibodies directed to clean up the infection then
start to degrade our own cells.
The most frequently found bacterium infecting GBS
patients is Campylobacter jejuni, which causes
diarrhea. Fortunately only few infections with C.
jejuni result in GBS since Campylobacter infections
are quite common. Scientists are still studying why
those unlucky ones get GBS and many others don't.
Could unpasteurized honey result in GBS? In theory,
yes, if a certain microorganism present in honey would
cause an infection that then would result in GBS.
However the chances are minute that this would happen.
Campylobacter is not usually associated with honey. If
anything, undercooked chicken meat would be a higher
risk because this is frequently contaminated with
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Update: June 2012