Principal Investigator: Donald Grant, Kenema Government Hospital (KGH)
NIH-Supported Collaborator: Robert Garry, Tulane University School of Medicine
Title of NIH Award: Preclinical Development of Recombinant Antigen Diagnostics for Lassa Fever
Eastern Sierra Leone, particularly the Kenema District, has the highest incidence of Lassa Fever, a severe and often fatal viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by the rodent Mastomys natalensis, in the world. The rodents are commonly found in homes and transmission occurs from contact with the rodents. Lassa Fever (LF) disproportionately impacts pregnant women and children. Case fatality rates for LF can reach 70% in children under age 5 and 90% in third trimester pregnancies for both the mother and the fetus. The prevalence and true impact of LF is not well understood.This study will address key gaps in knowledge of the epidemiology and natural history of Lassa fever.
The goals of the study are to: 1) characterize and contrast the age and sex distribution of LASV exposure in endemic and non-endemic areas and 2) elucidate risk factors for LASV infection in pregnant women and children.
The target population will consist of the entire Eastern Province of Sierra Leone and women and children in the Kenema District of Sierra Leone. The age and sex distribution of Lassa virus (LASV) exposure will be determined in a point prevalence study comparing endemic and non-endemic areas. This project will also elucidate risk factors for LASV infection in a case-control study of pregnant women and children, which will identify points in LF transmission. The proposed study will employ field epidemiology, hospital-based surveillance, and advanced laboratory techniques.
Public Health Impact:
These efforts will provide informed approaches for treating and controlling LF that can guide evidence-based investments for public health programming and policy.
Dr. Garry is the PI of the first NIH grant awarded to study LF in post-conflict Sierra Leone and will serve as technical advisor to this project and participate in virological and immunological studies. This effort combines the expertise of clinicians, scientists and health care workers at the Lassa Ward and Laboratory at KGH with virologists, clinicians, statisticians, rodent ecologists and epidemiologists at Tulane University.