Lassa fever has been one of the major disease ravaging most regions of the African continent, especially as medical experts and scientists in the past had battled with the prospect of creating a vaccine that could combat the highly transmitted ailment. Lassa fever is an animal-borne, acute hemorrhagic viral illness primarily observed in most parts of West Africa.
According to scientific research the infection is spread through contact with infected rodents, as well as person-to-person transmission via bodily fluids (primarily in health care settings).
The disease can cause a range of outcomes, including fever, vomiting, and swelling of the face, pain in the chest, back and abdomen, bleeding of various parts of the body including the eyes and nose and death.
Lassa virus infection in West Africa is estimated to affect 100,000 to 300,000 people annually, and is responsible for 10 – 16 percent of hospital admissions in the region. The virus is responsible for approximately 5,000 deaths annually.
Historical experience has proven that there’s been a wide range of difficulty in diagnosing Lassa fever, the lack of standardised surveillance as well as, the remote nature of many of the areas in West Africa where outbreaks typically occur. It is therefore safe to note that the numbers of reported cases and deaths as earlier estimated is obviously and significantly lower than the actual numbers of cases and deaths.
it is also imperative to state that although the majority of about 70-80% of Lassa virus-infected persons are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, the infection can be quite serious to fatal in others. The case-fatality among patients hospitalized for Lassa fever is about 15 – 20 percent and, in some epidemics, case-fatality has reached 50 percent in hospitalized patients.
Up until now, there are no licensed vaccines or treatments specifically for Lassa fever but just recently; however, the Western region of the African continent was greeted with great new of a possible cure for the dreaded Lassa disease.
Lassa fever update: first participant in Lassa vaccine trial has been dosed
News reports revealed that a biotechnology company, INOVIO, has confirmed that the first participant in Lassa vaccine trial has been dosed in a Phase 1B clinical trial for INO-4500, its DNA vaccine candidate for Lassa fever.
According to the firm’s reports, the clinical trial is being carried out in Ghana, and they also revealed that INOVIO is basically concerned about reaching out to the market with specifically manufactured DNA medicines to administer to and offer protection to people from every form of infectious diseases and cancer.
The Phase 1B clinical trial (LSV-002), ongoing at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Accra, Ghana, is the first vaccine clinical trial for Lassa Fever to be conducted in West Africa, where the infection is endemic.
Professor Kwadwo A. Koram, who is an expert and specialist in tropical medicines and epidemiologist with more than 20 years of research experience, even in malaria vaccines. He is been reported to be the lead clinical Principal Investigator for LSV-002.
Moreso, according to PUNCH Health wise reports, NO-4500 was the pioneer vaccine candidate for Lassa fever to enter human trials.
By way of corroboration and approval, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has already lauded and tweeted his commendation of the present development.
Dr Ihekweazu, stated thus, “Fantastic news. The urgency of now. A vaccine for Lassa fever. We have worked very hard with WHO, CEPI vaccines, ACEGID, BNITM_de and many others to put this on the global health agenda. We will keep pushing.”
In line with a news briefing released by the biotechnological organisation, INOVIO is advancing INO-4500 with full funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global partnership that leverages funding from public, private, philanthropic and civil society organisations to support research projects to develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.
It was also revealed that INOVIO previously received a $56m grant from CEPI in 2018, under which the company is developing vaccine candidates for Lassa fever and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
“INOVIO and CEPI are committed to making a vaccine available as soon as possible for emergency use as a stockpile product post-Phase 2 testing,” the press release stated.
The statement notes that INOVIO’s Phase 1B clinical trial, LSV-002, will enrol approximately 220 adult participants who are 18 – 50 years old, with the primary endpoints of evaluating safety and immunogenicity in an African population.
Furthermore, the dosing specifications involve two vaccinations at zero and 28 days with either 1.0 mg or 2.0 mg dosing levels. In addition to providing valuable insights on the INO-4500 safety and immunogenicity profile, this trial will inform dose selection for subsequent Phase 2 studies in West Africa.
Gift Joseph Okpakorese