Infections of horses and shrews with Bornaviruses in Upper Austria: A novel endemic area of Borna disease

Herbert Weissenböck, Zoltán Bagó, Jolanta Kolodziejek, Barbara Hager, Günter Palmetzhofer, Ralf Dürrwald, Norbert Nowotny*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Borna disease, a lethal infection with Borna disease virus-1 (BoDV-1), was diagnosed in four horses from Upper Austria in 2015 and 2016. All cases occurred in winter (two cases in February 2015 and two cases in December 2016), and the maximal distance of the affected stables was 17 km. To demonstrate whether the causative agent was also harbored by its reservoir host, the bicolored white-toothed shrew (Crocidura leucodon), 28 shrews from this geographic area were collected in 2015 and investigated for the presence of BoDV-1. The shrew species were identified according to taxonomic clues and molecular barcodes. Affected horses and all shrews were investigated using histology, immunohistochemistry (IHC) and reverse transcription PCR. The horses exhibited severe nonpurulent encephalitis. Large amounts of BoDV-1 antigen were identified in their CNS. Among the 28 shrews, nine were identified as C. leucodon and 13 as Sorex araneus (Common shrew; Eurasian shrew). Six C. leucodon (66.7%) and one S. araneus (7.7%) had BoDV-1 infections. In accordance with previous findings, the IHC of C. leucodon exhibited a high amount of viral antigen in many neural and extraneural tissues. By contrast, the single positive S. araneus had an exclusively neural staining pattern. Of all positive samples, whole-genome BoDV-1 sequences were generated. The acquired sequences of the affected shrews were not identical to each other and clustered around the sequences of the diseased horses belonging, surprisingly, to the German 'strain V' cluster.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere52
JournalEmerging Microbes and Infections
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Austria
  • Bicolored white-toothed shrew
  • Borna disease virus-1
  • Common shrew
  • Crocidura leucodon
  • Endemic area
  • Horse
  • Reservoir

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Epidemiology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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