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New arenavirus discovered as cause of hemorrhagic fever outbreak in South Africa and Zambia
Date:6/2/2009

May 28, 2009Scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases of National Health Laboratory Service (NICD-NHLS), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Roche's 454 Life Sciences Corporation have discovered the new virus responsible for a highly fatal hemorrhagic fever outbreak in Zambia and South Africa in late 2008. It is the first new hemorrhagic fever-associated arenavirus from Africa identified in nearly four decades. A detailed genetic analysis of this novel arenavirus, named Lujo virus, after the sites of the outbreak (Lusaka, Zambia, and Johannesburg, South Africa) is published online in PLoS Pathogens (http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1000455).

The previously unknown arenavirus, which was identified using genetic extracts of blood and liver from the victims and through unbiased high-throughput sequencing, is distantly related to Lassa virus and Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV). Characterization of the novel virus confirms the utility of unbiased high-throughput sequencing for pathogen discovery and provides a blueprint for public health efforts to quickly curb unidentified emerging viral disease outbreaks in the future. It will also enable the development of specific tests to diagnose infection, determine the origin of the virus, and develop drugs and vaccines to treat and prevent disease.

In September and October 2008, five cases of undiagnosed hemorrhagic fever were recognized in South Africa after air transfer of a critically ill individual from Zambia. The disease was fatal in four of the five cases, including the originally infected individual, the paramedic who attended the patient during air transfer, the nurse who attended the patient in the intensive care unit, and a member of the hospital staff who cleaned the room after the death of the pat
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Contact: Randee Sacks Levine
rs363@columbia.edu
212-305-8044
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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