Absence of evidence for bornavirus infection in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder

M. Hornig, T. Briese, J. Licinio, R. F. Khabbaz, L. L. Altshuler, S. G. Potkin, M. Schwemmle, U. Siemetzki, J. Mintz, K. Honkavuori, H. C. Kraemer, M. F. Egan, P. C. Whybrow, W. E. Bunney, W. I. Lipkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


In 1983, reports of antibodies in subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD) to an as-yet uncharacterized infectious agent associated with meningoencephalitis in horses and sheep led to molecular cloning of the genome of a novel, negative-stranded neurotropic virus, Borna disease virus (BDV). This advance has enabled the development of new diagnostic assays, including in situ hybridization, PCR and serology based on recombinant proteins. Since these assays were first implemented in 1990, more than 80 studies have reported an association between BDV and a wide range of human illnesses that include MDD, bipolar disorder (BD), schizophrenia (SZ), anxiety disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, dementia and glioblastoma multiforme. However, to date there has been no blinded case-control study of the epidemiology of BDV infection. Here, in a United States-based, multi-center, yoked case-control study with standardized methods for clinical assessment and blinded serological and molecular analysis, we report the absence of association of psychiatric illness with antibodies to BDV or with BDV nucleic acids in serially collected serum and white blood cell samples from 396 subjects, a study population comprised of 198 matched pairs of patients and healthy controls (52 SZ/control pairs, 66 BD/control pairs and 80 MDD/control pairs). Our results argue strongly against a role for BDV in the pathogenesis of these psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)486-493
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Borna disease virus
  • affective disorders
  • infection
  • pathogenesis
  • schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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