The incidence of antecedent events and serological evidence of preceding infection were studied in 100 patients with acute idiopathic neuropathy and age and sex matched control subjects in South-East England. Symptoms of respiratory infections occurred within one month before onset of neuropathic symptoms in 38% of patients and 12% of controls (p less than 0.001) and symptoms of gastrointestinal infections in 17% of patients and 3% of controls (p less than 0.005). Immunisations, insect bites and animal contact were equally common in the patient and control subjects. Eight per cent of patients had undergone an operation within the preceding 3 months. Six per cent of patients had co-existing "autoimmune" diseases. Serological evidence of recent infection was identified in 31% of patients. Campylobacter jejuni (14%) and cytomegalovirus (11%) were both significantly more frequently demonstrated in patients than controls. Serological evidence of recent infection with mycoplasma (1%), Epstein Barr virus (1-2%) and parvovirus B19 (4%) was also identified in the patients but not more frequently than in the controls. Possible explanations for the association of these agents with acute idiopathic neuropathy include possession of antigens shared with myelin and inhibition of suppressor mechanisms.
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