Borna disease virus (BDV) is a nonsegmented negative‐strand ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus that is unique among viruses of the order Mononegavirales in its genomic organisation, nuclear localisation for replication and transcription, splicing and neurotropism. Most reports of natural infection have described outbreaks in horses and sheep in central Europe; however, the virus appears to be distributed worldwide and has the potential to infect many, if not all, warm‐blooded hosts, causing disorders of the central, peripheral and autonomic nervous systems. In horses and sheep BDV is associated with fatal meningoencephalitis. In parrots and related exotic birds the recently characterised avian Bornavirus (ABV) may also infect the central nervous system; however, disease is typically manifest as a wasting disease due to autonomic nervous system infection and impaired peristalsis in the gastrointestinal tract. Whether bornaviruses infect humans remains controversial.

Key Concepts:

  • Borna disease virus is unique in its molecular biology, broad host range and neurotropism.

  • As the first infectious agent identified through subtractive cloning Borna disease virus is an example of the power of molecular biology in pathogen discovery.

  • The controversy over the role of Borna disease virus in human disease illustrates the complexity of proving causation using molecular diagnostics.

Keywords: Borna; nonsegmented negative‐strand RNA virus; splicing; neurotropic virus; neuropsychiatric disorders

Figure 1.

Genomic organisation and transcriptional map of Borna disease virus (BDV) strain V. Six major open reading frames (N, X, P, M, G and L) are represented above the BDV genome. Transcriptional start (S) and termination sites (T) used to generate RNA transcripts for expression of these proteins are indicated on the genomic strand (3′–5′, negative‐strand genome). At least 10 different transcripts ranging in length from 0.8 to 7.1 kb (numerals to the right) are generated as shown below the full‐length positive‐strand copy of the genome (5′–3′, antigenome). The shorter transcripts below the 7.1 and 2.8 kb transcripts are derived by RNA splicing within the M or G open reading frames. The 1.9 kb transcript (1.9) is considered to represent a leader RNA rather than messenger RNA because it initiates at the extreme 3′ end of the BDV genome and is not capped or polyadenylated.



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Further Reading

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Lipkin, W Ian, and Briese, Thomas(Feb 2011) Bornaviruses. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001011.pub3]