The link between Borna disease virus infection and psychotic disorders

logoThe Journal “BMC Psychiatry” (IF 2,576) has recently published a study presented by research group from Behavioral Medicine Institute, LUHS Violeta Zaliunaite, Vesta Steibliene, Aurelija Podlipskyte and Robertas Bunevicius in cooperation with members of Freelance Bornavirus Workgroup from Germany Liv Bode and Hanns Ludwig “Primary psychosis and Borna disease virus infection in Lithuania: a case control study”. https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-016-1087-z

The hypothesis that microbial infections may be linked to mental disorders has long been addressed for Borna disease virus (BDV), but clinical and epidemiological evidence remained inconsistent due to non-conformities in detection methods.  BDV circulating immune complexes (CIC) were shown to exceed the prevalence of serum antibodies alone and to comparably screen for infection in Europe (DE, CZ, IT), the Middle East (IR) and Asia (CN), still seeking general acceptance.

BDV CIC and antigen (Ag) tests were used in Lithuanian study to investigate BDV infection through a case-control study design comparing in-patients suffering of primary psychosis with blood donors. A significantly higher prevalence of CIC, indicating a chronic BDV infection were found in patients with treated primary psychosis than in blood donor controls (39.6 % vs. 22.4 %, respectively). Free BDV Ag, indicating currently active infection, did not show significant differences among study groups. Higher severity of psychosis (evaluated using Brief psychiatric rating scale (BPRS)) prior to treatment with antipsychotics was inversely correlated to the presence of BDV Ag (BPRS scores 42.6 vs. 34.1, respectively; p = 0.022).

This study concluded significantly higher BDV infection rates in psychotic than in healthy Lithuanians, thus supporting similar global trends for other mental disorders. The study raised awareness to consider the integration of BDV infection surveillance in psychiatry research in the future.