Pathology and Pathogenesis of Lassa Fever: Novel Immunohistochemical Findings in Fatal Cases and Clinico-pathologic Correlation

Wun Ju Shieh, Austin Demby, Tara Jones, Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Pierre E. Rollin, Thomas G. Ksiazek, Clarence J. Peters, Sherif R. Zaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Lassa fever is a zoonotic, acute viral illness first identified in Nigeria in 1969. An estimate shows that the "at risk"seronegative population (in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Nigeria) may be as high as 59 million, with an annual incidence of all illnesses of 3 million, and fatalities up to 67 000, demonstrating the serious impact of the disease on the region and global health. Methods: Histopathologic evaluation, immunohistochemical assay, and electron microscopic examination were performed on postmortem tissue samples from 12 confirmed Lassa fever cases. Results: Lassa fever virus antigens and viral particles were observed in multiple organ systems and cells, including cells in the mononuclear phagocytic system and other specialized cells where it had not been described previously. Conclusions: The immunolocalization of Lassa fever virus antigens in fatal cases provides novel insightful information with clinical and pathogenetic implications. The extensive involvement of the mononuclear phagocytic system, including tissue macrophages and endothelial cells, suggests participation of inflammatory mediators from this lineage with the resulting vascular dilatation and increasing permeability. Other findings indicate the pathogenesis of Lassa fever is multifactorial and additional studies are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1821-1830
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2022


  • Lassa fever virus
  • clinico-pathologic correlation
  • electron microscopy
  • emerging infections
  • immunohistochemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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