Numerous interactions of the immune system with the central nervous system have been described recently. Mood and psychotic disorders, such as severe depression and schizophrenia, are both heterogeneous disorders regarding clinical symptomatology, the acuity of symptoms, the clinical course, the treatment response, and probably also the etiology. Detection of p24 RNA from Borna disease virus (BDV) by the reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction in patients with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and in their biological relatives was evaluated. The subjects were 27 schizophrenic and schizoaffective patients, 27 healthy controls, 20 relatives without psychiatric disease, and 24 relatives with mood disorder, who attended the Psychiatric Ambulatory of Londrina State University, Paraná, Brazil. The subjects were interviewed by structured diagnostic criteria categorized according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV, axis I, (SCID-IV). The mean duration of illness in schizophrenic and schizoaffective patients was 15.341+/-1.494 years and the median age at onset was 22.4+/-7.371 years. There were no significant differences in gender (P=0.297), age (P=0.99), albumin (P=0.26), and body mass index (kg/m(2)) (p=0.28), among patients, controls, and relatives. Patients and biological relatives had significantly higher positive p24 RNA BDV detection than controls (P=0.04); however, the clinical significance of BDV remains to be clarified.