Lassa virus hepatitis: A study of fatal Lassa fever in humans

J. B. McCormick, D. H. Walker, I. J. King, P. A. Webb, L. H. Elliott, S. G. Whitfield, K. M. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


In order to explore the significance of a previous observation that the most important pathologic changes in fatal Lassa fever are hepatic, we have studied postmortem liver biopsies from 19 patients with fatal Lassa fever. We observed a vigorous macrophage response to cellular damage, but we found no evidence of lymphocyte infiltration in infected hepatic tissues. Using semi-quantitative estimates of liver cell damage, we found a wide range in the severity and progression of Lassa virus hepatitis in our fatal cases. We have classified for descriptive purposes three general nosopoeitic phases: active hepatocellular injury (< 20% necrosis), continued damage and early recovery, and mitotic activity representing hepatic recovery. We conclude that the liver goes through cellular injury, necrosis and regeneration and any or all may be present at death. In no instance was the degree of hepatic damage sufficient to implicate hepatic failure, and all three phases were represented among our cases. We conclude that the hepatitis of Lassa fever in humans is not the primary cause of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-407
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases


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