Lassa Virus Vaccine Candidate Clinical Trial Launches in Africa
Maryland-based Emergent BioSolutions Inc. today announced that it had dosed the first participant in its Phase 1 study evaluating the safety and immunogenicity of EBS-LASV, a recombinant VSV-vectored Lassa virus vaccine candidate being developed for the prevention of disease caused by Lassa virus infection.
This is essential news since the U.S. FDA has not approved any Lass fever vaccine for use as of September 6, 2022.
Kelly Warfield, Ph.D., SVP for research and development at Emergent BioSolutions, commented in a related press release, “We are proud to deploy our product development and partnering capabilities to address emerging infectious diseases like Lassa fever, for which there is currently no approved vaccine or therapeutic, and to advance our pipeline for patients.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) says Lassa fever is an acute viral hemorrhagic illness caused by the Lassa virus.
Though first described in the 1950s, the virus causing Lassa disease was not identified until 1969.
Humans usually become infected with the Lassa virus through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or feces of infected Mastomys rats.
Person-to-person infections and laboratory transmission can also occur, particularly in health care settings in the absence of adequate infection prevention and control measures.
The disease is endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa.
Lassa fever is endemic in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Nigeria but probably exists in other West African countries.
Among patients hospitalized with severe clinical presentation of Lassa fever, case fatality is estimated at around 15%.
However, early supportive care with rehydration and symptomatic treatment improves survival, says the WHO.
Lassa fever is one of the pathogens in the WHO R&D Blueprint list of epidemic threats.
The R&D Blueprint is a global strategy and preparedness plan that allows the rapid activation of research and development activities during epidemics.