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N Engl J Med. 2015 Jul 9;373(2):154-62. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1415627.

A Variegated Squirrel Bornavirus Associated with Fatal Human Encephalitis.

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From the Institute of Diagnostic Virology (B.H., D.H., M.J., B.A., M.B.), Department of Experimental Animal Facilities and Biorisk Management (J.P.T.), and Institute of Novel and Emerging Infectious Diseases (R.G.U.), Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Greifswald-Insel Riems, Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Arbovirus and Hemorrhagic Fever Reference and Research, Hamburg (D.T., D.C., J.S.-C.), German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), Hamburg-Lübeck-Borstel (D.T., D.C., J.S.-C.), Institute of Veterinary Pathology, Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, Gießen (C.H.), Department of Neurology, Bergmannstrost Hospital (A.B., O.N.), and Department of Neurology, University Hospital Halle (Saale) (T.M.), Halle (Saale), Institute of Neuropathology, Otto-von-Guericke Universität, Magdeburg (C.M.), State Institute for Consumer Protection of Saxony-Anhalt, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Stendal (E.v.d.G.), and Special Service for Veterinarian Affairs and Consumer Protection, Salzlandkreis, Bernburg (Saale) (C.L.) - all in Germany.


Between 2011 and 2013, three breeders of variegated squirrels (Sciurus variegatoides) had encephalitis with similar clinical signs and died 2 to 4 months after onset of the clinical symptoms. With the use of a metagenomic approach that incorporated next-generation sequencing and real-time reverse-transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR), the presence of a previously unknown bornavirus was detected in a contact squirrel and in brain samples from the three patients. Phylogenetic analyses showed that this virus, tentatively named variegated squirrel 1 bornavirus (VSBV-1), forms a lineage separate from that of the known bornavirus species. (Funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture [Germany] and others.).

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