Researchers create largest genomic data set for Lassa virus
This innovative genomic catalog is comprised of approximately 200 viral genomes taken from samples of patients in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The researchers also took field samples from a rodent, the Mastomys natalensis or multimammate rate, which is a major animal host of LASV.
The data demonstrates that LASV strains tend to gather into four groups according to their geographic location. Three are within Nigeria and a fourth is in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Scientists first described Lassa fever in 1969 in Nigeria, but the catalog shows that all four LASV strains have mutated from one original common ancestral virus over 1,000 years ago. The virus then spread throughout West Africa over hundreds of years.
"Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases like Lassa fever are global health challenges, and the NIH has a long history of investing in global research to improve the health of people in the United States and around the world," Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said. "The new Lassa virus data set will be valuable for understanding Lassa virus and developing medical countermeasures such as diagnostics, therapies, and vaccines."