Lujo hemorrhagic fever (LUHF) is caused by Lujo virus, a single-stranded virus of the Arenaviridae family. The limited clinical information about LUHF comes from a small, nosocomial cluster of hemorrhagic disease in September-October 2008 involving 5 patients in South Africa. The case fatality rate was 80% (4/5 cases). The first patient, whose source of infection was unknown, was the source of infection of 3 health care workers.
The distribution of this newly described arenavirus is uncertain. Treatment of arenavirus hemorrhagic fevers with convalescent plasma therapy reduces mortality significantly and anectodal evidence from the only surviving Lujo patient shows that the antiviral drug ribavirin may hold promise in the treatment of LUHF. Ribavirin has been considered for preventing development of disease in people exposed to other arenaviruses.
There was little opportunity for uniformity of clinical approach. Management of the non-survivors included IV fluids (4/4); broad spectrum antibiotics (4/4); transfusion of packed red blood cells, platelets, and fresh frozen plasma (2/4); hemodialysis (2/4); mechanical ventilation (2/4); plasmapheresis (1/4); and oral ribavirin (1/4, but the patient received only three doses before death). The surviving patient received many of these same treatments.
Shock and multi-organ system failure, often with evidence of disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, ensued in the second week, with death in four of the five cases. Distinctive treatment components of the one surviving patient included rapid commencement of the antiviral drug ribavirin and administration of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins), N-acetylcysteine, and recombinant factor VIIa. Lujo virus causes a clinical syndrome remarkably similar to Lassa fever.