The Borna Disease Virus Tragedy

The Robert Koch Institute in Berlin (remember Koch’s Postulates?) earlier this year cancelled its research into Borna Disease Virus (BDV). That is really regrettable, because BDV, a neurotropic virus, may cause depression and bipolar disorder. BDV may be transmitted by blood transfusions; research on this is being carried out in Australia. There may even be an effective cure; an antiviral drug, amantadine sulfate, approved for use against the common flu.

Given the prevalence of depression and bipolar disorder, you should have thought that a decent randomized trial would have been carried out. A small trial would not cost more that a couple of hundred thousand dollars. But amantadine is a 30 year old drug, no longer covered by patents. There is practically no incentive for pharmaceutical firms to finance such a study. So far there has been none. Given the potential huge benefits and the low cost, that is a tragedy.

In the meantime, German and Austrian doctors are using amantadine and reportedly getting good results. However, we still need the solid evidence we would get from a well-designed randomized controlled trial.

For background, read this article in Discovery, a more recent paper here. See also

Borna disease virus and the evidence for human pathogenicity: a systematic review. Authors: Chalmers, R.M.; Thomas, D.Rh.; Salmon, R.L.


Background: Borna disease is a neurological viral disease of veterinary importance in central Europe, although Borna Disease virus (BDV) has been reported to be present in animals in most continents. The hypothesis that BDV is associated with human illness is controversial. However, should even a small fraction of mental illness be attributable to infection with BDV, this would be an important finding, not least because illness in that sub-population would, theoretically, be preventable…

Discussion: Although agreed gold standard tests and evidence for test specificity are lacking, there is evidence that humans are exposed to the virus. Further epidemiological studies are required to establish whether there are associations with disease.

For a possible cure, see e.g.

Amantadine in depressive patients with Borna disease virus (BDV) infection: an open trial.

Objective: Originally introduced into pharmacotherapy as an antiviral compound, amantadine was shown to also have multiple pharmacological effects on the central nervous system. In addition, only a few studies reported on certain antidepressive properties of amantadine. This effect was highlighted by the discovery of its antiviral effect on Borna disease virus (BDV), which is hypothesized to be an etiopathogenetic factor to subtypes of affective disorders. Therefore, the therapeutical use of amantadine in BDV-infected depressive patients was investigated…

Conclusion: Amantadine appears to show a remarkable antidepressive efficacy in BDV-infected depressive patients. The antidepressive effect in this open trial appeared to be comparable to standard antidepressives, possibly being a result of its antiviral effect against BDV as a potentially relevant etiopathogenetic factor in these disorders.


12 thoughts on “The Borna Disease Virus Tragedy

  1. Are you still doing trials? If not, how would I go about getting amantadine? I have been diagnosed with Depression and Schitzophrenia and am hoping to get help. Any advice you give would be greatly appreciated.

    Karen Moore

  2. Karen,

    The best person to talk with is probably

    Dr Detlef E Dietrich, Abteilung Klinische Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, OE 7110, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Carl-Neuberg-Straße 1, D – 30625 Hannover, Germany. Fax: +49 511 5323187; e-mail:

    He is a psychatrist who has published on Borna, e.g.: Amantadine in depressive patients with Borna disease virus (BDV) infection: an open trial.
    Bipolar Disord. 2000 Mar;2(1):65-70.

    If I were in your place I would contact him and possibly get admitted as one of his patients for a few days to get some tests run, if for no other reason than to get a second opinion. He is a professor at the Hannover Medical School,

    German teaching hospitals are not luxurious, but they are not expensive either.

    Your current psychiatrist may or may not like this idea. But it is your life.

  3. I have read that two substances, currently in the research stage, namely:

    1-β-d-Arabinofuranosylcytosine and 2′-Fluoro-2′-Deoxycytidine

    both Inhibit Borna Disease Virus Replication and Spread. You can find the studies by searching in Google.

    Hopefully, these two will be available soon for presciption.

  4. I have suffered with depression for many years but it is more seasonal depression. Two years ago I was losing weight at a very fast pace, collapsing after minimal work. Went from doctor to doctor including a neurologist. Tests after tests. Nothing. Referred by my pharmacist to world renowned infectious disease Dr. Leon Smith. Celiacs disease and Borna disease, he also tested for Brucella. It isn’t easy knowing this has probably come from animals. We have everything here, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, racoons, fox, woodchucks, skunks, rats, mice, birds, deer, bears. When I say here I literally mean in my backyard. I am an animial lover but at what price? I am still not 100% don’t know if I ever will. I have read the responses and will be seeing Dr. Smith in a few weeks. Should I ask about the trial, new meds? Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Karen Walsh

  5. Pingback: bi polar, bi polar disorder, bi polar dis orders, manic depression

  6. Has there been any link of Borna Disease Virus with other nueropsychiatric disorders including Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Social Anxiety Disorder?

    Has there been any talk of other types of pathogens that may infect the CNS such as bacterial or fungal or parasitic?

  7. Pingback: Bipolar disorder linked to borna virus

  8. Does anyone know a lab in the US that performs Borna virus testing? If not, is it possible to send samples to European labs for testing?

  9. There’s a lab in Germany called Diamedis which was set up by one of the German researchers into Bornavirus. They will test blood samples for a small fee. I’ve just sent them a blood sample (from the UK), to see if my bipolar is linked with Bornavirus. Good luck!

  10. I want to know if Maxwell (Oct. 13, 2010) had positive results for the blood test done in Germany. Did the doctors find the presence of the Bornavirus?

    I wrote to the editor of The Lancet on November 4 to ask them to publish an article on the link between mood disorders and the Bornavirus. I received a reply that the editorial team will decide on November 19 whether to commission an author to write an article on that topic. Meanwhile, I am thinking more and more about going to Germany to have my son’s blood tested. The Bornavirus test is not available in Canada. Please let me know if Maxwell had any results. A member of my family has the same condition and it is a daily struggle.

  11. You can send your son’s blood to a lab in Germany by FedEx or other shipper. Here is the e-mail I received in reply to my inquiry:

    Our tests for Borna disease are two EIA (Enzyme Immuno Assays). One of them is called CIC-EIA (Circulating Immuno Complex EIA) and the other is
    called Ag-EIA (Antigen EIA). The costs for these tests are 100,- Euro.

    With best regards
    Jürgen Hochrein
    Tel.: 004952057299131
    Fax: 004952057299115

  12. How does one treats the disorder bipolar affective?
    Effective treatment of bipolar disorder is often based on the combination of several elements including the following: PHARMACOTHERAPY The drugs are the key to treatment of bipolar disorder.
    Drug therapy is effective in 75-80% of cases about.
    In the remaining 20%, it can lead to significant reduction of the effects of the

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