2nd May 2023 | Abuja - NCDC and Partners organise a research colloquium towards improving Lassa fever control in Nigeria
First identified in Lassa town in Borno State, Nigeria in 1969, Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever currently endemic in Nigeria and other West African countries such as Ghana, Benin Republic, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, and Sierra Leone. It is mainly transmitted to humans by the blood, urine, or excreta of multimammate rats. Human-to-human transmission of the Lassa virus is common among close contacts of confirmed cases such as household members and healthcare workers. While approximately 80% of Lassa virus infections in humans are either asymptomatic or mild, infection in the remaining 20% manifests as a febrile illness of variable severity, sometimes associated with multiple organ dysfunctions with or without haemorrhage and in severe cases, resulting in death. In Nigeria, the annual peak of Lassa fever cases is typically observed during the dry season (December–May).
Lassa fever cases have steadily increased over the years, as of the 23rd of April 2023, 4908 suspected cases, 897 confirmed cases and 154 deaths have been recorded in comparison with 4272 suspected cases, 751 confirmed cases, and 140 deaths recorded in 2022. Over the years, NCDC has established and supports a network of Lassa fever diagnostic laboratories and overall clinical expertise has greatly increased in Nigeria through the efforts of colleagues are the hospitals in Irrua and Owo in particular, and partners such as World Health Organization (WHO), United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), The World Bank, African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), Georgetown University (GU), Coalition of Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to list a few which have led to the current reductions in the case fatality. However, as Lassa fever continues to recur every season despite current efforts, continued Lassa fever research is required to better understand and develop evidence-based policies and strategies to prevent and respond to Lassa fever.
The overall aim of this colloquium is to review the current state of play and to identify priorities for research that will bring about a better understanding of the LF transmission using a One Health approach, identify means of strengthening surveillance, improve forecasting, position us for vaccine trials and provide travel along the therapeutics development pathway all as part of the development of a 5-year Lassa fever research agenda.
The objectives of this colloquium are:
The colloquium is a multi-disciplinary event that aims to bring together experts using a One Health approach from various fields to share their knowledge, experiences, and insights on Lassa fever. The colloquium will cover a wide range of topics, including the epidemiology, molecular biology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Lassa fever, as well as the social, economic, and cultural factors that influence the spread of the disease. Keynote speakers, panellists, and presenters will share their expertise and insights, and interactive sessions, breakout groups, and networking activities will enable participants to exchange ideas, ask questions, and explore potential collaborations. Lassa fever survivors will also share their experiences and perspectives. We are particularly grateful to have survivors at this colloquium because their viewpoints are critical to the expected outcomes and will keep us focused on the big picture.
Prof. Kate Jones, Director of People & Nature Lab and Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER) at UCL said, “With the rapid development of socio-ecological knowledge of Lassa fever and new clinical technologies for its control, this conference is a hugely exciting opportunity to bring researchers, public health partners and patients to transform responses to Lassa fever in a changing world.”
The research colloquium builds on the strides made in the Lassa fever International Conference held in 2019 and continuous work of NCDC, Ministries Departments and Agencies and partners, in improving the understanding of the virus. The gathering and sharing of data and knowledge are critical for putting policies in place to prevent, accurately detect and reduce the Lassa fever disease burden in Nigeria and the world.
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) is the country's national public health institute, with the mandate to lead the preparedness, detection, and response to public health emergencies. The Bill for an Act to establish NCDC was signed into law in November 2018, by President Muhammadu Buhari. The mission of the NCDC is 'To protect the health of Nigerians through evidence-based prevention, integrated disease surveillance and response, using a One Health approach, guided by research and led by skilled workforce'.
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Dr Ifedayo Adetifa
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention