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Viruses ; 13(11)2021 11 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1551629


Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced lower COVID-19 caseloads and fewer deaths than countries in other regions worldwide. Under-reporting of cases and a younger population could partly account for these differences, but pre-existing immunity to coronaviruses is another potential factor. Blood samples from Sierra Leonean Lassa fever and Ebola survivors and their contacts collected before the first reported COVID-19 cases were assessed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays for the presence of antibodies binding to proteins of coronaviruses that infect humans. Results were compared to COVID-19 subjects and healthy blood donors from the United States. Prior to the pandemic, Sierra Leoneans had more frequent exposures than Americans to coronaviruses with epitopes that cross-react with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), SARS-CoV, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). The percentage of Sierra Leoneans with antibodies reacting to seasonal coronaviruses was also higher than for American blood donors. Serological responses to coronaviruses by Sierra Leoneans did not differ by age or sex. Approximately a quarter of Sierra Leonian pre-pandemic blood samples had neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus, while about a third neutralized MERS-CoV pseudovirus. Prior exposures to coronaviruses that induce cross-protective immunity may contribute to reduced COVID-19 cases and deaths in Sierra Leone.

Antibodies, Viral/immunology , COVID-19/immunology , Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Age Distribution , Alphacoronavirus/immunology , Antibodies, Neutralizing/blood , Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , Antibodies, Viral/blood , Antigens, Viral/immunology , Betacoronavirus/immunology , Blood Donors , Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins/immunology , Cross Protection , Cross Reactions , Epitopes , Female , Humans , Male , Phosphoproteins/immunology , Sierra Leone , United States
Viruses ; 13(8)2021 08 13.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1376992


While investigating a signal of adaptive evolution in humans at the gene LARGE, we encountered an intriguing finding by Dr. Stefan Kunz that the gene plays a critical role in Lassa virus binding and entry. This led us to pursue field work to test our hypothesis that natural selection acting on LARGE-detected in the Yoruba population of Nigeria-conferred resistance to Lassa Fever in some West African populations. As we delved further, we conjectured that the "emerging" nature of recently discovered diseases like Lassa fever is related to a newfound capacity for detection, rather than a novel viral presence, and that humans have in fact been exposed to the viruses that cause such diseases for much longer than previously suspected. Dr. Stefan Kunz's critical efforts not only laid the groundwork for this discovery, but also inspired and catalyzed a series of events that birthed Sentinel, an ambitious and large-scale pandemic prevention effort in West Africa. Sentinel aims to detect and characterize deadly pathogens before they spread across the globe, through implementation of its three fundamental pillars: Detect, Connect, and Empower. More specifically, Sentinel is designed to detect known and novel infections rapidly, connect and share information in real time to identify emerging threats, and empower the public health community to improve pandemic preparedness and response anywhere in the world. We are proud to dedicate this work to Stefan Kunz, and eagerly invite new collaborators, experts, and others to join us in our efforts.

Disaster Planning , Lassa Fever/epidemiology , Lassa virus/physiology , Africa, Western/epidemiology , Disaster Planning/methods , Humans , Lassa Fever/genetics , Lassa Fever/prevention & control , Lassa Fever/virology , Lassa virus/genetics , N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases/genetics , N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferases/immunology , Nigeria/epidemiology , Pandemics , Polymorphism, Genetic , Receptors, Virus/genetics , Receptors, Virus/immunology
PLoS One ; 15(12): e0243766, 2020.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-971380


The purpose of this study was to describe the ocular findings, structural ocular complications, and vision impairment in a cohort of Lassa fever survivors in Kenema, Sierra Leone. A retrospective, uncontrolled, cross-sectional study of 31 Lassa fever survivors (62 eyes) who underwent an ophthalmic evaluation in January 2018 at the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone was performed. Data collection included demographic information, ocular/systemic symptoms, visual acuity (VA), and ophthalmic examination findings. Main outcome measures included anterior and posterior segment ophthalmic manifestations and level of VA impairment in Lassa fever survivors. Anterior segment findings included cataract (18%) and pterygium (2%), while posterior segment manifestations consisted of glaucoma (6%), preretinal hemorrhage (2%), and lattice degeneration (2%). Findings suggestive of prior sequelae of uveitis included chorioretinal scarring (5%), retinal fibrosis (3%), and vitreous opacity (2%). Visual acuity was normal/mildly impaired in 53 eyes (85%), moderately impaired in 6 eyes (10%), and 3 eyes (5%) were considered blind by the World Health Organization (WHO) criteria. Median VA was worse in Lassa fever survivors with ophthalmic disease findings (p<0.0001) for both anterior segment (p<0.0001) and posterior segment disease (p<0.013). Untreated cataract was a significant cause of visual acuity impairment (p<0.0001). Lassa fever survivors in this cohort were found to have cataract and posterior segment findings that potentially represent sequelae of uveitis associated with visual impairment. Future studies are warranted to improve our understanding of the spectrum of ocular disease in this emerging infectious disease of public health consequence.

Lassa Fever/complications , Survivors/statistics & numerical data , Vision Disorders/complications , Adult , Cross-Sectional Studies , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Retrospective Studies , Young Adult