Borna Doesn't Cause Mental Illness

Mental illness not caused by borna disease virus

(RxWiki News) Recent studies confirm that borna disease virus, (BDV), an infectious neurological disorder, does not cause mental illness.

Borna has been previously associated with dementia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and depression, yet a new study set forth by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health debunks those theories.

While the virus is known to cause a range of behavior disorders in other mammals and birds, its effects on humans have been unclear.

"Talk to a therapist if exhibiting signs of psychological distress.  "

“Our study provides compelling evidence that borna viruses do not play a role in schizophrenia or mood disorders,” explains Mady Hornig, M.D., director of translational research at Columbia’s Center for Infection and Immunity.

Dr. Hornig’s study investigated 198 people in California with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder against demographically-matched controls.

Assuming that evidence of BDV would be present during a psychiatric episode if it were, in fact, contributing to the illness, the doctors obtained blood samples of each patient during a psychiatric episode. The samples were further examined weeks later for traces of BDV antibodies.

The researchers found no evidence of BDV in any subjects, with or without mental illness.

"It was concern over the potential role of BDV in mental illness and the inability to identify it using classical techniques that led us to develop molecular methods for pathogen discovery,” senior author on the study, Michael Oldstone, M.D., explains.

“Ultimately these new techniques enabled us to refute a role for BDV in human disease.” 

This study is supported by a 2009 alcohol addiction investigation completed in the Czech Republic, available online through BMC Psychiatry

Czech researchers found traces of the borna disease in roughly forty percent of their blood donors, though no significant difference was found between rates in addicts versus healthy controls.

With no evidence of BDV found in any of Dr. Hornig and Dr. Oldstone's patients, the doctors suggest that no link exists between borna disease virus and mental illness in humans.

Columbia University obtained funding for the research, published online through the journal Molecular Psychiatry

Review Date: 
February 2, 2012