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November 1985

Borna Disease Virus: A Possible Etiologic Factor in Human Affective Disorders?

Author Affiliations

From the Depression Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry (Drs Amsterdam, Winokur, and Dyson), Department of Neurology (Dr Gonzalez), and the Wistar Institute (Dr Koprowski), University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, and the Virology Institute, Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, West Germany (Drs Herzog and Rott).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1985;42(11):1093-1096. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1985.01790340077011

• Borna disease virus is a unique neurotropic agent that appears to have a predilection for the limbic area of the brain. In some animal species, it can produce a behavioral syndrome characterized by aggressive and passive phases. This syndrome has suggested an analogy to certain human affective disorders. In this preliminary study, we examined the possible involvement of Borna disease virus in the etiology of human mood disorders by assaying for virus-specific antibodies in 265 patients with unipolar or bipolar depression and 105 normal, healthy volunteers. Twelve patients (4.5%) and none of the healthy controls demonstrated this antibody in their serum samples. It will be necessary to replicate and extend these intriguing preliminary results to determine if Borna disease virus is possibly involved in the pathogenesis of affective disorders in humans.