ISSN 2398-2950      

Rustrela disease virus


Synonym(s): Staggering disease, RusV



  • Staggering disease is associated with a non-suppurative meningoencephalitis.
  • Previously thought to be a result of infection with Borna disease virus Borna disease virus but a recent study demonstrated that 0/29 of affected cats tested negative on immunohistochemistry and PCR for Borna disease virus.
  • Subsequently 28/29 of these cats tested positive for Rustrela disease (RusV) virus using a metagenomic approach.
  • RusV is an RNA virus.


  • Family: Matonaviridae.
  • Order: Hepelivirales.
  • Genus: Rubivirus.


  • RusV is a close relative of rubella virus (which causes rubella in people).
  • The virus was discovered in the brain tissues of three acutely ill animals at a zoo in north-east Germany close to the Baltic sea and given the name Rustrela based on the nearby location, Strela Sound.

Clinical Effects

Pathological effects

  • Natural disease in cats can be observed in any cat over 6 months of age.
  • Seasonal occurrence, with more cases in winter and spring than summer and autumn.
  • Postulated to be associated with fluctuating numbers of yellow-necked field mice (reservoir host) and movement of mice indoors during colder months where they become easy prey for cats.
  • The signs progress over 1 to 4 weeks; the clinical condition either deteriorates, resulting in euthanasia, or stabilizes, leaving most cats permanently affected with motor dysfunction, personality changes, or both.
  • In cats that survive the initial infection, the clinical signs most often relapse.
  • Incubation period of RusV is unknown.
  • Clinical disease is characterized by:
    • Neurologic signs often follow a few days of non-specific illness.
    • Hind-limb ataxia Ataxia.
    • Hind-limb paresis.
    • Seizures Seizures.
    • Mentation changes.
    • Loss of ability to retract claws.
    • Anorexia Anorexia.
    • Hypersalivation.
    • Hypersensitivity to light and sound.
    • Visual impairment.
  • Disease is usually progressive but can also follow a remitting and relapsing course.


Control via animal

  • No treatment or vaccines.

Control via environment

  • Prevent access to rodents.


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Further Reading


Refereed Papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Matiasek K, Pfaff F, Weissenbock H et al (2023) Mystery of fatal ‘Staggering disease’ unravelled: Novel rustrela virus causes severe encephalomyelitis in domestic cats. Nat Commun 14(1), 624 PubMed DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-36204-w.
  • Bennett A J, Paskey A C, Ebinger A et al (2020) Relatives of rubella virus in diverse mammals. Nature 586, 424-428 PubMed DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2812-9.

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