The Importance of Lassa Fever and Its Disease Management in West Africa

Rachel A. Reyna, Kirsten E. Littlefield, Nathan Shehu, Tomoko Makishima, Junki Maruyama, Slobodan Paessler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Lassa virus (LASV) is a zoonotic pathogen endemic throughout western Africa and is responsible for a human disease known as Lassa fever (LF). Historically, LASV has been emphasized as one of the greatest public health threats in West Africa, with up to 300,000 cases and 5000 associated deaths per year. This, and the fact that the disease has been reported in travelers, has driven a rapid production of various vaccine candidates. Several of these vaccines are currently in clinical development, despite limitations in understanding the immune response to infection. Alarmingly, the host immune response has been implicated in the induction of sensorineural hearing loss in LF survivors, legitimately raising safety questions about any future vaccines as well as efficacy in preventing potential hearing loss. The objective of this article is to revisit the importance and prevalence of LF in West Africa, with focus on Nigeria, and discuss current therapeutic approaches and ongoing vaccine development. In addition, we aim to emphasize the need for more scientific studies relating to LF-associated hearing loss, and to promote critical discussion about potential risks and benefits of vaccinating the population in endemic regions of West Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number266
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Lassa virus
  • arenavirus
  • sensorineural hearing loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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