Contributed by Guest Blogger: M. Bekhbat ’13
Borna disease virus (BDV) is a neurotropic RNA virus that is known to cause neurological disturbances in various animal species, potentially even humans. It can infect mammals and birds, and can cause fatal encephalitis in horses, cattle and sheep. Experiments with rats indicate that neonatal BDV infection significantly altered the normal pattern of social interaction in rats. A possible relationship between Borna virus infection and psychiatric disease in humans has been speculated for some time now, with disorders most often associated with BDV being bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. The topic is still debatable with various studies confirming and others rejecting the hypothesis. In this study , the presence of BDV circulating immunocomplexes (CIC), complexes in the circulation formed from antigen (Borna Virus) and BDV-specific antibody, was examined in psychiatric patients and healthy individuals. The study found, like many others did, that the incidence of BDV CIC was significantly higher in psychiatric patients than in healthy individuals. But perhaps the more interesting result was that the significantly higher level of BDV CIC was associated with the higher severity of psychopathology in comparison with patients with mild or moderate psychopathology. This finding is in accordance with results from another research : Patients in the early course of schizophrenia had lower BDV antibody titers compared to patients in the advanced course, while a higher proportion of patients in the early course had titer increases over time. These findings could be the first step to determining putative neurobiological causes and risk factors in common psychiatric disorders, including depression, manic depression, anxiety and schizophrenia, whose causes remain a mystery.