Mirjam Groger receives Wolfgang Stille Science Award

Paul Ehrlich Society (PEG) honours work on the therapy of Lassa fever

The physician and scientist Dr Mirjam Groger will receive the prestigious Wolfgang Stille Prize 2022. With this award, the PEG honours her for her clinical studies on the medicinal treatment of Lassa fever.

The picture shows a young female researcher in a light-coloured jumper, looking friendly at the viewer.
©BNITM / Dino Schachten

Lassa fever is a haemorrhagic fever disease that is constantly present (endemic) in West Africa. Lassa viruses can be transmitted by multimammate rat (Mastomys natalensis). So far, there are neither reliably effective drugs nor an approved vaccine. Some infected persons develop severe courses with life-threatening internal bleeding, kidney failure and neurological symptoms; the mortality rate among hospital patients is up to 30 percent, depending on the institution. As standard therapy, doctors prescribe the antiviral drug ribavirin.

Between 2020 and 2021, Dr Mirjam Groger from BNITM's Clinical Research Department conducted field studies in Nigeria together with an international cross-institutional team. The team was able to rely on a proven institutional cooperation between the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH) in Edo State, Nigeria, and the departments of Virology and Clinical Research of the BNITM. Thanks to this cooperation, a clinical research center has been established over the past years at ISTH, the world's largest Lassa fever treatment centre. Here, Dr Groger investigated drug concentrations of ribavirin in the therapy of Lassa fever in patients.


The picture shows a group of international researchers in front of the entrance to the ISTH in Nigeria.
The project team in front of the Training and Clinical Trial Centre
©Mirjam Groger
The picture shows a study doctor in the isolation ward drawing blood for the pharmacokinetic analysis of the Lassa fever study.
Blood sampling on the isolation ward
©Mirjam Groger

Dr Cyril Erameh, Dr Peter Akhideno and Prof. Sylvanus Okogbenin contributed significantly to the success of this study as local study leaders at ISTH. The Global Health Protection Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health supported capacity building for clinical Lassa fever research at ISTH. Other important partners in this collaborative project were the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Hamburg (UHH) and the Section of Tropical Medicine at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE). The project was supported by the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF).

The team was able to show that the standard drug ribavirin, which has been used for decades, does not have sufficient antiviral effect on the virus and is therefore not an adequate therapy in this form.

In July 2022, the scientific journal Clinical Infectious Diseases published the study "Pharmacokinetics of Ribavirin in the Treatment of Lassa Fever: An Observational Clinical Study at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, Nigeria". The results formed an important basis for the ISTH in Nigeria to establish an international clinical study platform with other partner institutions, on which new antiviral substances against Lassa fever can be tested and patients can be better cared for, the jury praised the "outstanding work" of Dr Mirjam Groger.

"I am very pleased about this honour and thank the jury very much," says Mirjam Groger. "It recognises an important collaborative research achievement: the work not only represents a milestone in global clinical Lassa fever research. It also makes an important contribution to building Good Clinical Practice compliant clinical research capacities at our Nigerian partner institution."

The Wolfgang Stille Award is endowed with 10,000 euros and commemorates the infectiologist and former PEG chairman Prof. Dr Wolfgang Stille (1935-2004). The PEG honours outstanding research work in the fields of infectiology and microbiology every two years with the prize donated by Pfizer Pharma GmbH. The prize will be awarded on the occasion of the spring meeting of the PEG on 4 April 2023.

Original publication

Groger, Mirjam et al.: Pharmacokinetics of Ribavirin in the Treatment of Lassa Fever: An Observational Clinical Study at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, Edo State, Nigeria.

Link to the press release of Paul-Ehrlich-Gesellschaft

Contact person

Dr Mirjam Groger

Research Group Leader

Phone : +49 40 285380 480

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Dr Eleonora Schoenherr

Public Relations

Phone : +49 40 285380-269

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