Lassa fever in Guinea: II. Distribution and prevalence of Lassa virus infection in small mammals.

A. H. Demby, A. Inapogui, K. Kargbo, J. Koninga, K. Kourouma, J. Kanu, M. Coulibaly, K. D. Wagoner, T. G. Ksiazek, C. J. Peters, P. E. Rollin, D. G. Bausch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Rodents of the genus Mastomys form the reservoir for Lassa virus (LV), an arenavirus that causes a potentially severe hemorrhagic illness, Lassa fever (LF). Although Mastomys rodents exist throughout sub-Saharan Africa, areas of human LF appear to be quite focal. The distribution of small mammals and LV-infected Mastomys has been assessed in only a few countries. We conducted a survey of small mammals in selected regions of Guinea to assess the degree to which LV poses a public health risk in that country. A total of 1,616 small mammals, including 956 (59%) Mastomys, were captured from 444 households and seven bush sites. Mastomys made up > 90% of the captured animals in the savannah, savannah-forest transition, and forest regions of Guinea, while Mus musculus dominated in coastal and urban sites. Animals were analyzed via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for LV-specific antigen (blood and spleen homogenate) and IgG antibody (blood only). Virus isolation from spleen homogenates was also performed on a subset of animals. Lassa antibody and antigen were found in 96 (11%) and 46 (5%), respectively, of 884 tested Mastomys. Antibody and antigen were essentially mutually exclusive and showed profiles consistent with vertical transmission of both LV and antibody. LV was isolated only from Mastomys. ELISA antigen constituted an acceptable surrogate for virus isolation, with a sensitivity and specificity when performed on blood of 78% (95% confidence interval: 68-83%) and 98% (95-99%), respectively. The proportion of LV-infected Mastomys per region ranged from 0 to 9% and was highest in the savannah and forest zones. The proportion of infected animals per village varied considerably, even between villages in close proximity. Infected animals tended to cluster in relatively few houses, suggesting the existence of focal "hot spots" of LV-infected Mastomys that may account for the observed heterogeneous distribution of LF.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-297
Number of pages15
JournalVector borne and zoonotic diseases (Larchmont, N.Y.)
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology
  • Microbiology


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