Background. Since 2008, we have observed an increasing number of Myanmarese refugees in Malaysia being admitted for acute/subacute onset peripheral neuropathy. Most of them had a preceding history of starvation. Methods. We retrospectively studied the clinical features of all Myanmarese patients admitted with peripheral neuropathy from September 2008 to January 2014. Results. A total of 24 patients from the Chin, Rohingya, and Rakhine ethnicities (mean age, 23.8 years; male, 96%) had symmetrical, ascending areflexic weakness with at least one additional presenting symptom of fever, lower limb swelling, vomiting, abdominal pain, or difficulty in breathing. Twenty (83.3%) had sensory symptoms. Ten (41.6%) had cranial nerve involvement. Nineteen patients had cerebrospinal fluid examinations but none with evidence of albuminocytological dissociation. Neurophysiological assessment revealed axonal polyneuropathy, predominantly a motor-sensory subtype. Folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies were detected in 31.5% of them. These findings suggested the presence of a polyneuropathy related to nutrition against a backdrop of other possible environmental factors such as infections, metabolic disorders, or exposure to unknown toxin. Supportive treatment with appropriate vitamins supplementation improved functional outcome in most patients. Conclusion. We report a spectrum of acquired reversible neurological manifestations among Myanmarese refugees likely to be multifactorial with micronutrient deficiencies playing an important role in the pathogenesis.
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