Predicting the evolution of the Lassa virus endemic area and population at risk over the next decades

Raphaëlle Klitting, Liana E. Kafetzopoulou, Wim Thiery, Gytis Dudas, Sophie Gryseels, Anjali Kotamarthi, Bram Vrancken, Karthik Gangavarapu, Mambu Momoh, John Demby Sandi, Augustine Goba, Foday Alhasan, Donald S. Grant, Sylvanus Okogbenin, Ephraim Ogbaini-Emovo, Robert F. Garry, Allison R. Smither, Mark Zeller, Matthias G. Pauthner, Michelle McGrawLaura D. Hughes, Sophie Duraffour, Stephan Günther, Marc A. Suchard, Philippe Lemey, Kristian G. Andersen, Simon Dellicour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lassa fever is a severe viral hemorrhagic fever caused by a zoonotic virus that repeatedly spills over to humans from its rodent reservoirs. It is currently not known how climate and land use changes could affect the endemic area of this virus, currently limited to parts of West Africa. By exploring the environmental data associated with virus occurrence using ecological niche modelling, we show how temperature, precipitation and the presence of pastures determine ecological suitability for virus circulation. Based on projections of climate, land use, and population changes, we find that regions in Central and East Africa will likely become suitable for Lassa virus over the next decades and estimate that the total population living in ecological conditions that are suitable for Lassa virus circulation may drastically increase by 2070. By analysing geotagged viral genomes using spatially-explicit phylogeography and simulating virus dispersal, we find that in the event of Lassa virus being introduced into a new suitable region, its spread might remain spatially limited over the first decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5596
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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