Guillain-Barré syndrome precipitated by hepatitis E virus infection is rare, yet its incidence is increasing.
A 57-year-old man was transferred from another facility with fatigue, orange urine, and progressive weakness over 4 to 6 weeks. Initial laboratory results included total bilirubin, 9.0 mg/dL; direct bilirubin, 6.4 mg/dL; aspartate aminotransferase, 1551 U/L; alanine aminotransferase, 3872 U/L; and alkaline phosphatase, 430 U/L. Immunoglobulin M and quantitative polymerase chain reaction test results were positive for hepatitis E virus. Contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and spine showed no gross abnormalities. Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid obtained by lumbar puncture revealed the following (reference values in parentheses): total white blood cell count, 15/μL (0–5/μL), with 33% neutrophils and 54% lymphocytes; protein, 0.045 g/dL (0.015–0.045 g/dL); and glucose, 95 mg/dL (within reference range). Neurological examination revealed weakness in both upper extremities, with proximal strength greater than distal strength. The patient could not elevate either lower extremity off the bed and had areflexia and reduced sensation throughout all extremities.
Guillain-Barré syndrome secondary to acute hepatitis E virus infection was diagnosed on the basis of clinical characteristics, serum and cerebrospinal fluid analyses, and nerve conduction studies.
Nurses and clinicians should obtain a thorough history and consider hepatitis E virus infection as a precipitating factor in patients with sensory and motor disturbances consistent with Guillain-Barré syndrome. The case gives insight into the diagnostic process for Guillain-Barré syndrome and highlights the vital role of bedside nurses in evaluating and treating these patients.