Technology

Lassa Virus Outbreak Controlled by DNA Tests in Nigeria

Lassa Virus Outbreak Controlled by DNA Tests in Nigeria

Lassa virus caused a major outbreak in Nigeria in 2018, which was tackled by analyzing its DNA and targeting immediate response. 

In 2018, an outbreak of viral hemorrhagic fever hit Nigeria, however scientists were ready with testing new disease-tracking technology, and within weeks managed to steer health workers toward the most appropriate response.

Every year West Africa is affected by Lassa fever, which is transmitted from rodents. During 2018, the most number of registered cases of Lassa virus surfaced, recording the worst season for Nigeria. By mid-March, there were 376 confirmed cases — more than three times as many as by that point in 2017 — and another 1,495 suspected.

The health officials were able to prevent the spread of Lassa virus, with the help of new technology for analyzing DNA, which confirmed that the outbreak was being caused by pretty much the same strains transmitted from rodents to humans in past years. The timely finding of its cause helped in curbing the disease at the right time. The health officials controlled the growth of rodents and laid measures for safe food storage. The researchers reported the cause and measures of curbing Lassa virus in the journal Science in January 2019.

“This kind of real-time collaboration can help scientists and public health workers “see the bigger picture about pathogen spread,” says Nicholas Loman, a microbial genomicist at the University of Birmingham in England who was not involved in the research.

The researchers analyzed 36 samples during the outbreak that helped them to study the strains of the virus.