What Is Guillain-Barré Syndrome? Ex-Putin Aide Develops Rare Disorder

A former aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been hospitalized with a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS).

Anatoly Chubais was the former Chief of the Presidential Administration of Russia—a high ranking adviser for Putin. However, he resigned and fled the country shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

Chubais officially stepped down from his high profile position in March. At the time it was not explained why, however, it was one of a handful of resignations in the Kremlin following 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 became unwell, noticing a numbness in his legs and hands, the New York Timesreported.

 Anatoly Chubais
A photo shows Anatoly Chubais in St. Petersburg in 2014. The former aide of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been hospitalized with a rare neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome. OLGA MALTSEVA / Stringer/Getty

What is GBS?

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

It is very rare. The CDC calculates it affects 3,000 to 6,000 U.S citizens a year.

Cases vary, and can be very mild or very severe. Severe cases can have devastating impacts, and lead to paralysis.

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

Scientists do not know the exact cause of GBS—it is not inherited or contagious.

There are several conditions that can lead to GBS. According to the CDC, around two in three people suffer from diarrhea or a respiratory condition a few weeks before the disorder develops.

An infection with the Campylobacter jejuni bacteria—which causes food poisoning and subsequently diarrhea—is thought to be one of the most common causes of the disorder.

According to the CDC, 1 in every 1,000 people infected with the bacteria subsequently gets GBS.

Some people who develop the condition also report viral infections several weeks prior. Several viruses of note are cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus and the Zika virus.

Also, people have suffered with GBS after receiving particular vaccines and in 1976 there were increased reports of GBS following a large swine flu vaccination campaign.

However the CDC stresses that this is incredibly rare. The organization calculated that per million flu vaccine doses, there were 1 to 2 additional GBS cases.

What are the symptoms?

The first tell-tale signs of GBS are a tinging sensation in the hands or feet. Sometimes pain may occur in the legs or back.

Children may have trouble walking when developing GBS.

Tingling sensations will often disappear before severe symptoms manifest. People may then experience weakness in the body, including in the breathing muscles and the face.

Patients with GBS may also notice difficulty with their eye muscles and their vision, as well as swallowing, speaking, and eating. Some people may be unable to control their bladder, and occasionally, people may be unsteady on their feet.

While symptoms can be serious and severe, the CDC says 70 percent of people usually recover fully with proper medical attention. Some individuals with particularly severe cases may experience weakness long-term, however, even those suffering respiratory failure usually survive.