- The discovery, reported in The Veterinary
Record, the journal of the British Veterinary Association, was made by
the veterinary pathology unit at Bristol University.
- Victims of Borna disease virus (BDV)
suffer from depression, exhaustion and walking difficulties. The virus
has been linked to farmers' suicides.
- BDV was first identified in Germany in
1785. It is found naturally in a wide range of animal species, including
horses, sheep, goats and cattle.
- It was first detected in human patients
with psychiatric illnesses in 1996.
- The virus was found in 10 cats out of
111 submitted to the Bristol University lab for tests to find more cases
of the feline form of mad cow disease.
- A number of the cats had suffered a range
of nervous disease and other problems. The researchers say no direct link
between the virus and disease has been established.
- But they write: "In view of the
known wide host range of BDV it is important that the prevalance of the
infection in other domestic species in the UK is elucidated."
- Pets can be positive
- The Pet Health Council issued a statement
in which it said that the sample tested by Bristol University was unlikely
to be representative of the cat population at large, and that there was
no current evidence to suggest a link between animal species and humans.
- "It is important for cat owners
to keep this issue in perspective, to continue to follow the usual and
well established hygiene routines with their pet and remember the benefits,
including health, that pets provide."
- Other studies have shown that stroking
pets can be therapeutic and reduce the risk of depression.
- BDV is being investigated by the Health
and Safety Executive as part of a project to identify illnesses that can
be contracted from animals.
- A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food said: "Only limited tests have been carried out
at the moment and we do not know the extent to which this virus causes