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Anti-GQ1b ganglioside positive Miller Fisher syndrome – evidence of paranodal pathology on nerve biopsy


Background: Miller Fisher syndrome is a regional variant of Guillain-Barre syndrome with a characteristic clinical triad of ophthalmoplegia, areflexia and ataxia and occasionally distal limb sensory loss. 90% of patients have associated antibodies to the GQ1b ganglioside. The pathophysiology of antibody-mediated peripheral nerve impairment remains uncertain. This report includes the first description of a peripheral sensory nerve biopsy in Miller Fisher syndrome. Results: A single case report is described of a 46 year old woman who presented with 2 weeks of distal glove and stocking sensory loss to both deep and superficial sensory modalities, areflexia and weight loss. This was followed by rapid onset of ataxia, ophthalmoplegia, and bulbar impairment. Peripheral neurophysiology showed reduced sensory nerve amplitudes with preserved conduction velocities in keeping with an axonal pattern of impairment. Clinical concerns of a systemic inflammatory disorder led to a diagnostic peripheral nerve biopsy from the sensory branch of the radial nerve. However she subsequently made a complete recovery over 5 weeks. Combinatorial glycoarrays confirmed restricted serum binding for GQ1b in acute serum which later resolved in a convalescent sample. The nerve biopsy showed lengthening of nodes of Ranvier, myelin splitting and macrophage internodal axonal invasion without any features of demyelination. Conclusions: The pathological features were strikingly similar to those found in acute motor axonal neuropathy and indicate the region of the node of Ranvier to be a primary focus of GQ1b induced damage in Miller Fisher syndrome, at least in this particular overlap syndrome with prominent sensory nerve involvement.