To date it is not clearly understood how Lassa virus causes pathology. Actual hemorrhage is rare. Most severe Lassa fever cases show some form of neurological impairment, clinical signs of meningitis and may exhibit seizures. In addition, acute renal failure is common that progresses rapidly requiring hemodialysis in many cases. The development of therapeutics and other medical countermeasures to treat Lassa fever is greatly hindered by the lack of our understanding of its pathology. We are therefore recruiting cohorts of patients with distinct organ manifestations. Cases are examined in detail also using non-invasive diagnostic equipment (EEG, ultrasound, etc.) and well characterizsed. Laboratory testing including measurement of standard parameters on-site but also more advanced markers of inflammation and neurological or renal damage, coagulopathy, etc. are measures at the BSL4 laboratory in Hamburg.
Minimal-invasive tissue sampling (MITS) study
To finally understand the tissue pathology of Lassa fever we are colleting postmortem samples from relevant organs using a technique called MITS (minimal-invasive tissue sampling). MITS employs ultrasound-guided biopsies on the deceased to collected specimens for laboratory analysis (microscopy / histopathology, transcriptomics etc.). This method poses no greater biosafety threat than regular patient management compared to full open autopsy which is virtually impossible in a VHF / BSL4 agent setting.