Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an acute inflammatory disease affecting myelin and axons of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). GBS is considered to be caused by breakdown of tolerance to autoantigens of the PNS. The involvement of cytokines in GBS and in relation to treatment with high dose intravenous immunoglobulin (IvIg) is incompletely known. We studied the temporal profiles of IL-10 and IFN-gamma-secreting blood mononuclear cells (MNC) over the course of GBS, using enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assays. Pretreatment levels of blood MNC spontaneously secreting IL-10 were higher in the acute phase of GBS than in control patients with aseptic meningitis, other neurological diseases, diabetic neuropathy and healthy subjects. Levels of IFN-gamma-secreting blood MNC were not increased over the course of GBS. Patients treated with IvIg had lower numbers of IL-10-secreting MNC compared to untreated patients. High levels of IL-10-secreting MNC correlated with serum anti-ganglioside IgM antibody levels, and with neurophysiological signs of axonal damage. The present data suggests that IFN-gamma is not involved in GBS pathogenesis, and IL-10 being up-regulated in the early phase of GBS and associated with axonal damage, may have a pathogenetic role in GBS.
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