Elevated L-threonine is a biomarker for Lassa fever and Ebola

Virol J. 2020 Nov 26;17(1):188. doi: 10.1186/s12985-020-01459-y.


Background: Lassa fever and Ebola are characterized by non-specific initial presentations that can progress to severe multisystem illnesses with high fatality rates. Samples from additional subjects are examined to extend and corroborate biomarkers with prognostic value for these diseases.

Methods: Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry metabolomics was used to identify and confirm metabolites disrupted in the blood of Lassa fever and Ebola patients. Authenticated standards are used to confirm the identify of key metabolites.

Results: We confirm prior results by other investigators that the amino acid L-threonine is elevated during Ebola virus infection. L-Threonine is also elevated during Lassa virus infection. We also confirmed that platelet-activating factor (PAF) and molecules with PAF moiety are reduced in the blood of patients with fatal Lassa fever. Similar changes in PAF and PAF-like molecules were not observed in the blood of Ebola patients.

Conclusions: Metabolomics may provide tools to identify pathways that are differentially affected during viral hemorrhagic fevers and guide development of diagnostics to monitor and predict outcome.

Keywords: Ebola; L-Threonine; Lassa fever; Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry; Metabolomics; Viral hemorrhagic fevers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chromatography, Liquid / methods
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / blood
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / diagnosis*
  • Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lassa Fever / blood
  • Lassa Fever / diagnosis*
  • Lassa Fever / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods
  • Metabolomics
  • Middle Aged
  • Threonine / blood*
  • Threonine / genetics
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Threonine