Pathogenicity and virulence mechanisms of Lassa virus and its animal modeling, diagnostic, prophylactic, and therapeutic developments

Hannah L. Murphy, Hinh Ly

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Lassa fever (LF) is a deadly viral hemorrhagic disease that is endemic to West Africa. The causative agent of LF is Lassa virus (LASV), which causes approximately 300,000 infections and 5,000 deaths annually. There are currently no approved therapeutics or FDA-approved vaccines against LASV. The high genetic variability between LASV strains and immune evasion mediated by the virus complicate the development of effective therapeutics and vaccines. Here, we aim to provide a comprehensive review of the basic biology of LASV and its mechanisms of disease pathogenesis and virulence in various animal models, as well as an update on prospective vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for LF. Until effective vaccines and/or therapeutics are available for use to prevent or treat LF, a better level of understanding of the basic biology of LASV, its natural genetic variations and immune evasion mechanisms as potential pathogenicity factors, and of the rodent reservoir-vector populations and their geographical distributions, is necessary for the development of accurate diagnostics and effective therapeutics and vaccines against this deadly human viral pathogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2989-3014
Number of pages26
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank both anonymous reviewers for their kind and generous inputs and suggestions, M. Rahman and M. Brisse for their useful suggestions on the overall organizational and graphical presentations of the manuscript. The authors also wish to apologize to investigators whose work might have been unintentionally omitted from this review article. The corresponding author (H.L.) wishes to dedicate this article in loving memory of his father. The first author (H.M.) would also like to dedicate this first scientific publication of hers to her parents. Funding support for Lassa and related work in the Ly laboratory was supported in parts by NIH grants R56 AI091805, R01 AI093580 and R01 AI131586. H.M. was supported in parts by the Minnesota Drive Global Food Ventures (MnDRIVE GFV) Graduate Professional Development Program and by the J.B. and J.N. Moe Graduate Fellowship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Lassa virus
  • arenavirus
  • diagnostics
  • hemorrhagic fevers
  • mammarenavirus
  • pathogenesis
  • pathogenicity
  • therapeutics
  • vaccine
  • virulence


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