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PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2012;6(8):e1801. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0001801. Epub 2012 Aug 28.

Severe hemorrhagic fever in strain 13/N guinea pigs infected with Lujo virus.

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  • 1Viral Special Pathogens Branch, Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America.


Lujo virus (LUJV) is a novel member of the Arenaviridae family that was first identified in 2008 after an outbreak of severe hemorrhagic fever (HF). In what was a small but rapidly progressing outbreak, this previously unknown virus was transmitted from the critically ill index patient to 4 attending healthcare workers. Four persons died during this outbreak, for a total case fatality of 80% (4/5). The suspected rodent source of the initial exposure to LUJV remains a mystery. Because of the ease of transmission, high case fatality, and novel nature of LUJV, we sought to establish an animal model of LUJV HF. Initial attempts in mice failed, but infection of inbred strain 13/N guinea pigs resulted in lethal disease. A total of 41 adult strain 13/N guinea pigs were infected with either wild-type LUJV or a full-length recombinant LUJV. Results demonstrated that strain 13/N guinea pigs provide an excellent model of severe and lethal LUJV HF that closely resembles what is known of the human disease. All infected animals experienced consistent weight loss (3-5% per day) and clinical illness characterized by ocular discharge, ruffled fur, hunched posture, and lethargy. Uniform lethality occurred by 11-16 days post-infection. All animals developed disseminated LUJV infection in various organs (liver, spleen, lung, and kidney), and leukopenia, lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, coagulopathy, and elevated transaminase levels. Serial euthanasia studies revealed a temporal pattern of virus dissemination and increasing severity of disease, primarily targeting the liver, spleen, lungs, and lower gastrointestinal tract. Establishing an animal LUJV model is an important first step towards understanding the high pathogenicity of LUJV and developing vaccines and antiviral therapeutic drugs for this highly transmissible and lethal emerging pathogen.

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