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BORNA disease is a sporadically occurring neurological disease caused by Borna disease virus (BDV), a RNA virus of the Bornaviridae family (Rott and Becht 1995, Staeheli 2002). BDV infection has been reported in a growing number of species, although sheep and horses are the main natural hosts; in horses, clinical disease is invariably fatal (Herden and Richt 2009), although more recently, milder forms of the disease have been reported by some researchers (Dieckhöfer and others 2004, Bode 2008).
Since the 1700s, classical clinical disease due to BDV infection has occurred only in geographically restricted areas of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Lichtenstein (Rott and Becht 1995, Staeheli and others 2000, Dürrwald and others 2006, Herden and Richt 2009). There is serological evidence for BDV infection of horses and other species in an increasing number of countries, including several other European countries, Israel, Japan, Iran, Australia and the USA (Herden and Richt 2009). However, whether natural Borna disease exists outside the areas in Europe where it is endemic, and whether BDV infections might be associated with other clinical manifestations, are still matters of considerable debate (Staeheli and others 2000, Dürrwald and others 2006, Herden and Richt 2009).
In the UK, serological studies of BDV in horses have not been reported; however, antibodies have been detected in cats and human beings without any clear association with disease (Reeves and others 1998, Thomas and others 2005). Moreover, until now, there have been no confirmed cases of clinically manifest Borna disease in horses or sheep in Great Britain.
Seroepidemiological surveys from Germany have indicated that BDV infection of susceptible hosts often runs an inapparent course, since the average …