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The Lassa fever virus is an Old World Mammarenavirus that causes a viral hemorrhagic fever disease and is classified as biosafety-level 4 pathogen. It occurs in several countries in West Africa like Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. Due to the lack in medical infrastructure in some of the regions where the virus occurs, no clear epidemiological data are available. However scientists estimate up to 300.000 infections occurring annually. The virus is transmitted via rodents but also from human-to-human. Seroprevalence studies suggest that many people come in contact with the virus but only some fall seriously ill. Those who do suffer from an acute febrile illness, often with pharyngitis that can quickly turn into multi-organ failure. In such severely ill patients particularly neurological symptoms, like lethargy, agitation and seizures are observed – case reports of the Lassa fever virus being detected in the cerebrospinal fluid lead to the question if such symptoms are caused by the virus directly infection the hosts’ central nervous system. Furthermore, acute renal failure occurs in several patients and disturbance of the coagulation cascade can lead to hemorrhage (diffuse bleeding) that, in the worst case scenario results in cardiovascular shock. What exactly leads to these organ manifestations of Lassa fever and if they simply occur in the framework of a serious acute illness (such as in severe pneumonia or sepsis) or if they are direct effects mediated by the presence of the virus in the described end-organs is not known.
This research group has been set up with the goal to research these most interesting questions. Knowledge about the mechanisms of organ pathology in Lassa fever will aid greatly in clinical management, diagnosis and further research on drug targents and vaccines.
To this end, we combine clinical research projects in Nigeria at our collaborative site, the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital, with further hypothesis testing in in-vivo and in-vitro models of Lassa fever at our laboratory at BNITM.
We are currently looking for a PhD canddiate: Click here for more information and to apply.