Borna Disease Virus Has Been Infecting Humans for Decades


Health Editor’s Note:  When diseases can be spread from species to species this is called zoonosis. Apparently Borna disease virus has been infecting animals and quite possibly humans for hundreds of years.  This is a type of disease that is spread by a host, the shrew, a very small rodent, who will exhibit none of the neurological symptoms (anxiety, cognitive defects, aggression, hyperactivity which can lead to paralysis, inability to walk, seizures, or death) that those who have Borna disease virus will have. I review the neurological symptoms and recognize that they are also involved in other diseases, both physical and psychological, of humans. Could there have been a connection between Borna virus and schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder?. With the ability to test genes, Borna Virus has been ruled out at a cause for any of these dysfunctions (mental illnesses) in humans, but this is a serious virus to try to avoid, I guess by avoiding shrews…Carol

A Shrew-Borne Virus Is Responsible for Deadly Brain Infections in Humans centuries

by Katherine J. Wu/

Borna disease virus has plagued the livestock of Europe, leaving horses, sheep, cattle and other domesticated animals reeling from a bizarre and often deadly combination of neurological symptoms. Once stricken, usually by picking up the pathogen from an infected but symptomless shrew, animals would act aggressively, stagger about and smash their heads repeatedly into objects.

Slowly, the list of potential hosts began to grow. Cats, too, were vulnerable, researchers found, as well as dogs, foxes, primates and even birds. And when scientists began to experiment with the virus in the lab, they discovered that it could infect virtually any warm-blooded animal they tried.

The virus’ apparent ubiquity quickly sparked concern. Its hop into humans, some argued, seemed more a question of when than if.

Now, after years of fruitless searching for Borna in people, it’s clear that the virus indeed infects humans—and has likely been killing them for decades, reports Kai Kupferschmidt for Science magazine. In a study published this week in Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers identified eight instances of lethal Borna disease in humans, roughly doubling the number of known infections in our species.

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  1. The best news from the article is saved for the last sentence: “the virus seems to have trouble traveling from person to person, and seems unlikely to cause an epidemic.” Good read, thanks!

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