A Borna disease virus (BDV)-like agent was isolated from the central nervous system (CNS) of cats with a spontaneous non-suppurative encephalomyelitis (‘staggering disease’). In contrast to the rabbit-adapted BDV strain V, which can be propagated in several primary and permanent cell cultures, the cat virus grew only in embryonic mink brain cells. Infection of adult Wistar rats with feline brain tissue material did not result in clinical disease during a period of 5 months, nor in growth of infectious virus in the brain. However, using the brain suspension of a newborn rat inoculated with feline brain tissue material, it was possible to induce typical Borna disease (BD) in four adult rats. This indicates a possible adaptation of the cat virus during passages in rats. By the use of an RT-PCR technique, BDV-specific RNA could be detected in a majority of brain samples from diseased cats. BDV-specific antigen was demonstrated in feline CNS samples both by immunohistochemistry and ELISA. However, the amount of BDV RNA and BDV antigen was less in the cats as compared to horses with BD, providing further support for the notion that a distinct feline BDV strain exists.


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