Pathological host responses to Lassa virus infection – from mice to men
Hemorrhagic fever viruses (VHFs) like Lassa virus (LASV), Ebola virus (EBOV) or Crimean- Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV) can cause severe diseases in humans that are characterized by high morbidity and mortality. LASV is a zoonotic pathogen that was discovered in 1969 in Nigeria and is endemic in Nigeria and several other West African countries.
Despite the importance of LASV as a human pathogen, very little is known about the pathophysiology of LASV. Severe LF is characterized by high virus concentrations, inflammation, terminal shock and multi organ failure. The extent of the organ damage however is insufficient to account for death, which is mirrored in non human primate (NHP) experiments. Despite many years of research, the exact cause of death during LF is still completely unclear. The data from humans and NHPs indicates that deregulated host responses plays a key role in LASV pathophysiology but no all-encompassing model outlining beneficial and pathological immune responses exists so far, highlighting the urgent need to address the role of immune responses during LF.