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Published on July 02, 2024
University of Minnesota's CIDRAP Releases R&D Roadmap to Combat Lassa Fever in West AfricaSource: NIH, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As the Lassa fever challenge persists in West Africa, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) is stepping up with a detailed roadmap aimed at tackling the disease. On Monday, CIDRAP released an updated Research and Development (R&D) guide to navigate us through the next critical years in battling the Lassa virus.

According to the University of Minnesota, there's an essential drive to quickly identify the most promising medical countermeasures against Lassa fever. Researchers are aiming to develop and make available these tools in areas where the virus is endemic and at risk of spreading by the decade's end. With a reported 100,000 to 300,000 annual Lassa virus infections, many of which likely go unrecognized, the urgency of this project can't be understated.

Addressing the gravity of the situation, CIDRAP director Michael Osterholm expressed concern over the potential reach of the disease due to variables such as climate change. “Lassa fever currently occurs only in West Africa, but climate change and other factors could increase the host range of the rodents that carry this virus,” Osterholm explained. "It’s important for us to act now to be sure we have the tools to fight this disease and to prevent further advancement of Lassa fever to new areas," he told in the official release.

The R&D roadmap, as published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, contains a comprehensive set of strategic goals and milestone-driven strategies which include advancing the readiness of operational sites for phase 3 vaccine trials, completing phase 1 clinical trials for promising vaccine candidates, and to further refine sequencing-based surveillance methods by 2025.

Notably, the roadmap’s 2024 update articulates five crucial international cooperation areas that encapsulate ongoing attention and resources: securing research funding, enhancing Lassa fever control, harmonizing clinical data across different regions, encouraging community participation in clinical research, and improving local capacities. “A lot of important work is being done to advance medical countermeasures against Lassa fever, but we need to continue that work to ensure that diagnostic tests, drugs and vaccines are available by the end of the decade,” Osterholm emphasized in the CIDRAP announcement.