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BMC Psychiatry. 2016 Nov 3;16(1):369.

Primary psychosis and Borna disease virus infection in Lithuania: a case control study.

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Behavioral Medicine Institute, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Vyduno str. 4, Palanga, LT-00135, Lithuania.
Psychiatry Clinic, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Mickeviciaus str. 9, Kaunas, LT-44307, Lithuania.
Freelance Bornavirus Workgroup, Joint Senior Scientists, Beerenstr. 41, Berlin, D-14163, Germany.
Behavioral Medicine Institute, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Vyduno str. 4, Palanga, LT-00135, Lithuania.



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.


We used CIC and antigen (Ag) tests to investigate BDV infection in Lithuania through a case-control study design comparing in-patients suffering of primary psychosis with blood donors. One hundred and six acutely psychotic in-patients with no physical illness, consecutively admitted to the regional mental hospital, and 98 blood donors from the Blood Donation Centre, Lithuania, were enrolled in the study. The severity of psychosis was assessed twice, prior and after acute antipsychotic therapy, by the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS). BDV-CIC and Ag markers were tested once after therapy was terminated.


What we found was a significantly higher prevalence of CIC, indicating a chronic BDV infection, 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 prior to treatment was inversely correlated to the presence of BDV Ag (42.6 vs. 34.1 BPRS, respectively; p = 0.022).


The 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.


Borna disease virus (BDV); Circulating immune complexes (CIC); Lithuania; Primary psychosis

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