Background: Lassa fever is an acute viral illness characterized by multi-organ failure and hemorrhagic manifestations. Lassa fever is most frequently diagnosed in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea, although sporadic cases have been recorded in other West African countries, including Mali. The etiological agent of Lassa fever is Lassa virus (LASV), an Arenavirus which is maintained in nature and frequently transmitted to humans by Mastomys natalensis. The purpose of this study was to better define the geographic distribution of LASV-infected rodents in sub-Saharan Mali.
Methodologies/principal findings: Small mammals were live-trapped at various locations across Mali for the purpose of identifying potential zoonotic pathogens. Serological and molecular assays were employed and determined LASV infected rodents were exclusively found in the southern Mali near the border of Côte d'Ivoire. Overall, 19.4% of Mastomys natalensis sampled in this region had evidence of LASV infection, with prevalence rates for individual villages ranging from 0 to 52%. Full-length genomic sequences were determined using high throughput sequencing methodologies for LASV isolates generated from tissue samples of rodents collected in four villages and confirmed the phylogenetic clustering of Malian LASV with strain AV.
Conclusions/significance: The risk of human infections with LASV is greatest in villages in southern Mali. Lassa fever should be considered in the differential diagnosis for febrile individuals and appropriate diagnostic techniques need to be established to determine the incidence of infection and disease in these regions.