We recently attended an event convened by our partners at the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in Ede, Osun State, Nigeria. At the event, they shared their latest Lassa fever research breakthroughs.
ACEGID does cutting-edge research into infectious diseases and has been involved in Lassa fever for years. They performed the first-ever PCR-based diagnosis of the virus and facilitated the establishment of the foremost center of excellence for Lassa fever diagnosis in the West Africa (Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, Nigeria).
Here are 3 important takeaways from the event that you should know:
- Finding Ways to Diagnose Lassa Fever Faster: In January 2016, ACEGID developed a Lassa fever rapid diagnostic test (RDT) that’s highly sensitive and specific to all the various lines of Lassa fever in Nigeria. The RDT cuts down the time it takes to get a diagnosis, which means once it’s widely circulated and used, patients across the country will get Lassa fever treatment earlier and have better outcomes.
- Exploring the Origins and Transmission of Lassa Fever: ACEGID used genomic sequencing techniques to analyze hundreds of Lassa fever viruses and discovered that Lassa fever originated in Nigeria 1,060 years ago and spread from Nigeria to other West African countries 400 years ago. Their research also shows that the Lassa fever virus isn’t very efficient for human-to-human transmission, which explains why Lassa fever outbreaks are less deadly than outbreaks of Ebola and other similar infectious diseases which easily spread between people.
- Discovering Segments of the Population with Possible Resistance to Lassa Fever: ACEGID discovered a gene which exists in the Yoruba people in southwest Nigeria and may be associated with resistance to Lassa infection. What does this mean? Well it could mean any number of things, but it’s certainly a discovery that’s worthy of further exploration. Perhaps this apparent immunity that exists within the Yoruba people could lead to the development of a vaccine or drug to treat Lassa fever.