Monday, February 21, 2011

US Anti-Bioterrorism Outpost in Africa for Lassa Fever

The US has established a laboratory in Sierra Leone to monitor and study Lassa Fever in an area that it is endemic.  This is all part of the NIH's effort to be more prepared for a bio-terrorism attack should an attack arise in the future.  The laboratory is in a geographically advantageous place because Lassa is prevalent, unlike the United States.  This way, researchers have access to a steam of Lassa Fever patients.

Lassa Fever kills about 5000 people each year and infects anywhere from 300,000-500,000 people.  One fo the main goal of this laboratory is to produce good diagnostics for identifying Lassa Fever.  This is also important for use in place where Lassa is currently a problem and early treatment is a key for survival.  From a Bio-terrorism perspective, diagnostics are key because if an outbreak occured in the United STates, a quick identification would dramatically reduce the impace of the disease on the area.

The other really interesting part of this article is that one of the reason people are contracting Lassa is from eating Mastomy rodents.  One of the tasks of the group has therefore been to convince people to stop eating these rats, however, the people of the region really enjoy the taste of these rats and they are considered a delicious treat, making it difficult to switch this social trend.

- Lauren Platt


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