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.
Distinguishing characteristics of her care which could have played a role in her survival include rapid commencement of ribavirin (oral ribavirin was begun on ID-1 with conversion to IV on ID-8), and the administration of recombinant factor VIIa, N-acetylcysteine, and atorvastatin on ID 2. Supportive therapy is important in Lujo hemorrhagic fever. This includes: 1)maintenance of hydration, 2) management of shock, 3) sedation, 4) pain relief.
No major hemorrhage was noted. Neurological signs were sometimes seen in the late stages. 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. Considering the high case-fatality and significant logistical impediments to controlled treatment efficacy trials for viral hemorrhagic fever, it is both logical and ethical to explore the use of the various compounds used in the treatment of the surviving case reported here in future outbreaks.