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Borna disease virus (BDV) infection in psychiatric patients and healthy controls in Iran

Elham Mazaheri-Tehrani12*, Nader Maghsoudi1, Jamal Shams3, Hamid Soori4, Hasti Atashi1, Fereshteh Motamedi1, Liv Bode5 and Hanns Ludwig5

Author Affiliations

1 Neuroscience Research Center, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, P.O. Box 19615–1178, Tehran, Iran

2 Department of Diagnostic, Clinic and Public Health Medicine, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy

3 Behavioral Research Center, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

4 Safety Promotion and Injury Prevention Research Center, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

5 Bornavirus Working Group affiliated to the Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany

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Virology Journal 2014, 11:161  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-11-161

Published: 3 September 2014



Borna disease virus (BDV) is an evolutionary old RNA virus, which infects brain and blood cells of humans, their primate ancestors, and other mammals. Human infection has been correlated to mood disorders and schizophrenia, but the impact of BDV on mental-health still remains controversial due to poor methodological and cross-national comparability.


This first report from the Middle East aimed to determine BDV infection prevalence in Iranian acute psychiatric disorder patients and healthy controls through circulating immune complexes (CIC), antibodies (Ab) and antigen (pAg) in blood plasma using a standardized triple enzyme immune assay (EIA). Samples of 314 subjects (114 psychiatric cases, 69 blood donors, and 131 healthy controls) were assayed and data analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively.


CICs revealed a BDV prevalence of one third (29.5%) in healthy Iranian controls (27.5% controls; 33.3% blood donors). In psychiatric patients CIC prevalence was higher than in controls (40.4%) and significantly correlating with bipolar patients exhibiting overt clinical symptoms (p = 0.005, OR = 1.65). CIC values were significantly elevated in bipolar (p = 0.001) and major depressive disorder (p = 0.029) patients as compared to controls, and in females compared to males (p = 0.031).


This study supports a similarly high prevalence of subclinical human BDV infections in Iran as reported for central Europe, and provides again an indication for the correlation of BDV infection and mood disorders. Further studies should address the morbidity risk for healthy carriers and those with elevated CIC levels, along with gender disparities.

Borna disease virus; Circulating immune complexes; Psychiatric disorders; Iranian patients/controls