Scientists have identified the virus that killed eight people in southern Germany between 1999 and 2019. Named “Borna virus”, it has been identified by researchers in people with viral encephalitis, inflammations of the brain. The scientific journal “The Lancet Infectious Diseases” published a study on January 7 on the origin of this fatal disease.
Borna disease was first noted in the German city of the same name in the 18th century. Symptoms are fever, headache and confusion and gradually turn into memory loss, unsteady gait, convulsion and progressive loss of consciousness. This virus primarily affects horses, sheep and other domestic mammals, but it is transmitted by rodents, in particular the two-colored shrew with white teeth, often confused with the mouse. Those infected are found in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Died between 16 and 57 days
The study was conducted on 56 people who have developed signs of encephalitis in the past 20 years. Among the patients, some died, which allowed the researchers to perform analyzes on their brain tissue. Those with Borna disease saw their condition worsen quickly after being admitted to hospital. First fell into a deep coma, they died within 16 to 57 days.
In their study, however, the scientists point out the limits they are currently seeing. “Information on the frequency of cases, clinical courses and detailed epidemiological analyzes are still lacking,” they warn. Nevertheless, the information available on 14 patients shows contact with animals, life in rural or suburban areas, agricultural work and other outdoor activities for most of them.
Researchers therefore recommend carrying out screening tests more frequently to find out whether or not the virus is present in the event of nervous system disorders of rapid onset and of unknown cause.