By Staff Reports
(DGIwire) – There can be few scenarios more terrifying than losing control over the body’s muscles. Many who have heard of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS)—which is characterized by a loss of muscle control—may not be familiar with the condition due to its relative rarity. But it is still important to know a few things about it. Here are five questions to ask about GBS:
- What is GBS? According to the National Institutes of Health, GBS is a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system. The first symptoms include weakness or tingling in the legs; these symptoms often spread to the arms and upper body, increasing until some muscles can’t be used at all and, when severe, the person is almost totally paralyzed. In these cases, GBS is a life-threatening condition. Most individuals, however, enjoy a good recovery from even the most severe cases.
- What causes GBS? The World Health Organization reports that the cause of GBS cannot always be determined. However, it is often triggered by an infection—such as HIV, dengue or influenza—and less commonly by immunization, surgery or trauma. The immune system starts to destroy the myelin sheath that surrounds axons, the long thin extensions of nerve cells, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Who is at risk of contracting GBS? The National Organization for Rare Disorders says that GBS affects approximately one or two persons each year per 100,000 population. All ages can be affected and it is slightly more common in the elderly than the young and in men than women.
- Is there a link between the Zika virus and GBS? According to Scientific American, a recent study published in The Lancet concluded that a link may exist between the Zika virus and GBS, suggesting countries hit by the Zika epidemic will see a rise in GBS cases. However, the link is yet to be proven definitively.
- What new treatments are being tested for GBS? Akari Therapeutics is testing a small-molecule protein named Coversin. Derived from a protein in the saliva of the Ornithodoros moubata tick, Coversin is designed to be given by subcutaneous injection, making self-administration possible if approved for commercialization. Akari is currently studying Coversin in GBS and other rare diseases; the company plans to initiate a Phase II study in GBS patients in early 2017.
Coversin is designed to inhibit the action of a protein called C5, which plays a key role in a component of the immune system called the complement system. Ordinarily, the complement system helps disable and clear out foreign invaders and unwanted cells, but when C5’s variants are produced in unregulated numbers, the result can trigger life-threatening inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as GBS. Coversin has shown promise as a C5 inhibitor.
“The current standard of care for GBS includes treatment with intravenous immunoglobin or plasma exchange,” says Gur Roshwalb, MD, CEO of Akari. “Yet it is still the case that between two and 12 percent of GBS patients die and between 10 to 35 percent experience permanent impairment despite receiving the standard therapies. Coversin, which inhibits activity of the complement system—a part of the body’s immune response—might present a more efficient treatment.”
Anyone with further questions about the symptoms and treatment of GBS should ask their doctor for more information.