The goal of the Consortium is to understand mechanisms related to the human immune response to Lassa virus infection. Specifically, by understanding what parts of the virus is recognized by the immune system, we can better understand mechanisms of antibody-mediated protection or pathogenesis in humans with Lassa Fever.

So why choose Lassa Fever for human immunological study?

Unlike many viral hemorrhagic fevers, Lassa Fever is not a rare disease that emerges only as sporadic cases or in outbreak form. Although surveillance is inadequate to determine the true incidence, up to 300,000 infections and 5,000 deaths from Lassa Fever are estimated to occur yearly across West Africa, where the disease is endemic. After Dengue Fever, Lassa has the highest incidence of any viral hemorrhagic fever in the world. The highest incidence of Lassa Fever is in the “Mano River Union (MRU)” countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. However, the numbers of Lassa Fever cases appear to be increasing dramatically in other parts of West Africa as well.

One of the hallmarks of Lassa virus infection is the apparent absence of functional antibodies during acute infection. A fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of antibody binding and antibody-mediated neutralization of the Lassa virus may have significant implications for the generation of antibody-based therapeutics or epitope-targeted vaccines.

For more information on the various research projects being conducted by the Consortium, including diagnostics and viral evolution, please click on the links on the left.

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