Nigeria’s fight against AIDS has gained a boost in a fresh €22.8 million grant awarded to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) by the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
The fund will go into conducting a Phase IIb clinical trial of IAVI’s Lassa fever vaccine candidate among adults and children in Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.
The vaccine candidate uses a recombinant virus vector, which is now registered for use in eight African countries.
This joint award supports an international collaboration across Africa, Europe, and North America, called the “Lassa Fever Vaccine Efficacy and Prevention for West Africa” (LEAP4WA).
It will also strengthen the capacity of investigational sites where Lassa fever outbreaks and diseases occur frequently.
Other WRAIR Lassa projects being implemented at the CRC and other sites across Nigeria include a Lassa incidence study in collaboration with the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), a Lassa seroprevalence study, and a potential opportunity for a CEPI-funded Phase IIa Lassa vaccine study through a WRAIR /IAVI collaboration.
Lassa fever is a zoonotic disease that spreads from rats to humans through bodily fluids.
Infected patients exhibit a high fever accompanied by bleeding, sore throat, vomiting, and body pains.
The illness was first reported in the Lassa community in Borno State, Nigeria when two missionary nurses died from an unusual febrile illness.
Since then, outbreaks continue to be reported in Nigeria and the disease, which is gradually becoming endemic in many parts of West Africa is now being transported to overseas countries like the US and UK.
Despite these outbreaks, a vaccine breakthrough has not been achieved. An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Lassa fever cases are diagnosed annually, resulting in approximately 5,000 deaths.
The World Health Organization has identified Lassa fever as one of the top emerging pathogens likely to cause severe outbreaks in the near future.
In 2018, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported the largest ever the number of cases in Nigeria, with over 600 confirmed cases and over 170 deaths.
As of May 2021, 14 states recorded at least one confirmed case and over 2000 suspected cases this year, with the majority of cases stemming from Edo and Ondo states.
WRAIR’s CRC was established in 2014, initially supporting Phase II Ebola vaccine trials funded by Glaxo Smith Kline and Janssen. Since that time, its expanding research efforts have covered a broad range of infectious diseases. Its current research covers COVID-19 studies, with site preparations ongoing for an imminent Phase III SARS-CoV-2 candidate vaccine trial sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur.