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Detection of bornavirus-reactive antibodies and BoDV-1 RNA only in encephalitis patients from virus endemic areas: a comparative serological and molecular sensitivity, specificity, predictive value, and disease duration correlation study.

Infection 2023 May 31
PURPOSE: Human Borna disease virus (BoDV-1) encephalitis is an emerging disease in Germany. This study investigates the spectrum of human BoDV-1 infection, characterizes anti-BoDV-1-antibodies and kinetics, and compares laboratory test performances.

METHODS: Three hundred four encephalitis cases, 308 nation-wide neuropsychiatric conditions, 127 well-defined psychiatric cases from Borna disease-endemic areas, and 20 persons with contact to BoDV-1 encephalitis patients or animals were tested for BoDV-1 infections by serology and PCR.

RESULTS: BoDV-1 infections were only found in encephalitis patients with residence in, or recent travel to, virus-endemic areas. Antibodies were detected as early as 12 days after symptom onset. Serum antibody levels correlated with disease duration. Serology was ordered after 50% of the disease duration had elapsed, reflecting low awareness. BoDV-1-antibodies were of IgG1 subclass, and the epitope on BoDV-1 antigens was determined. Specificity of the indirect immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT) and lineblot (LB) from serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), as well as PCR testing from CSF, was 100%. Sensitivity, depending on first or all samples, reached 75-86% in serum and 92-94% in CSF for the IFAT, and 33-57% in serum and 18-24% in CSF for the LB. Sensitivity for PCR in CSF was 25-67%. Positive predictive values were 100% each, while negative predictive values were 99% (IFAT), 91-97% (LB), and 90% (PCR).

CONCLUSIONS: There is no hint that BoDV-1 causes other diseases than encephalitis in humans. Awareness has to be increased in virus-endemic areas. Tests are robust but lack sensitivity. Detection of IgG1 against specific peptides may facilitate diagnosis. Screening of healthy individuals is likely not beneficial.

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