Assessing risk of Lassa fever in West Africa

With previous research having pinpointed the Natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis) as the animal host of lassa virus, the authors used more than 2 million GBIF-mediated records for all members of the family Muridae to model the host species’ distribution.

Data resources used via GBIF : 2,228,003 species occurrences
Natal Multimammate Mouse (Mastomys natalensis) by batwrangler. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Natal Multimammate Mouse (Mastomys natalensis) by batwrangler. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Lassa fever is a difficult-to-diagnose viral illness that claims an estimated 5,000 lives annually in West Africa. With previous research having pinpointed the Natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis) as the virus’ animal host, the authors used more than 2 million GBIF-mediated records for all members of the family Muridae to model the host species’ distribution.

Combining the model with known locations of Lassa infection in humans and animals, the results highlight an at-risk population of 37.7 million people in 14 West African countries—including four that have yet to report any cases—where conditions are suitable for transmission of the fever. This concluding paper in a series that also mapped the zoonotic niche of the Ebola, Marburg and Crimean-Congo viruses offers a spatial guide for future surveillance, diagnosis and treatment of Lassa fever, potentially enabling more rapid public health responses in the sub-Saharan regions susceptible to this acute viral illness.

Citations

Mylne, A. Q. N., Pigott, D. M., Longbottom, J., Shearer, F., Duda, K. A., Messina, J. P., … Hay, S. I. (2015). Mapping the zoonotic niche of Lassa fever in Africa. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 109(8), 483–92. doi:10.1093/trstmh/trv047

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