Monday, June 1, 2009

Researchers identify a new highly pathogenic arenavirus

Scientists have discovered a new virus in Africa, named Lujo (LUJV) after the two the two cities Lusaka, Zambia and Johannesburg, South Africa where it originated. The virus, which causes hemorrhagic fever (symptoms include bleeding gums and bleeding around injection sites, fever, shock, coma, and organ failure) infected 5 people in Zambia and South Africa in September and October of last year. Consequently, 4 of the cases died as a result of the infection.

While it is not know how the first patient became infected, scientists were able to analyze tissue and blood specimens from the case patients, which did provide some insight into likely modes of transmission. Through these analyses, scientists determined the Lujo virus was a new member of the arenavirus family. Documented modes of transmission of arenavirsues include inhalation of small aerosols of rodent waste which contain the virus or from particles such as dust that have become infected with the rodent waste and are then disbursed into the air (often by mechanical harvesters used for farming and grain processing). Arenaviruses that are deposited in the environment may also be infective when ingested or when they come in contact with cuts or skin abrasions. Person-to-person transmission of arenaviruses has also been documented, but this type of transmission typically occurs through contact with infected body fluids and in family or health care settings, as was the case with this particular outbreak.

Researchers have developed specific reagents which will enable them to further investigate the virus's reservoir, geographic distribution, and high pathogenicity (ability of the virus to cause disease). Like most emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, evidence seems to suggest the agent-host-environment triad played an important role in the emergence of Lujo virus.

The full journal article detailing the epidemiology of the Lujo virus can be viewed at:

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