Novel bornavirus identified: Transmission to humans possible

A novel Bornavirus from squirrels: Transmission to humans possible

© Hans Hillewaart

Scientists from the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM) and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI), both DZIF member establishments, have succeeded in identifying a novel bornavirus that is transmissible from animals to humans. The results have been published in the "New England Journal of Medicine".

Between 2011 and 2013, the virus caused fatal encephalitis in three breeders of variegated squirrels in Saxony-Anhalt. A transmission of the virus from the squirrels to the breeders is very likely, as a metagenomic analysis of tissue samples from both the animals and the deceased has shown. In this analysis, the entire genetic information, including that of all the microorganisms, was investigated. With the results, the scientists were able to identify several sequence fragments of a previously unknown bornavirus strain, which was subsequently confirmed with molecular-biological, histological and serological tests.  DZIF scientist Dr Dennis Tappe from the BNITM points out: “Genetically, the novel virus is distinctly different to the bornaviruses that we have known up to now. The investigations have shown that members of the bornavirus family can also infect humans.”

Read more in the BNITM Press Release (in German)

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