A university lecturer, Prof. Christian Happi, has claimed that Yoruba people, by the make-up of their genes, are immune to Lassa virus that causes Lassa fever. The researcher, who is Dean, College of Postgraduate Studies, Department of Biological Sciences, Redeemer’s University, Ede, Osun State, said research was ongoing on why this is so, adding that few cases of Lassa fever recorded among Yoruba people are “imported.”
Speaking on the new breakthrough on the rampaging Lassa fever, Happi, who is Director, World Funded African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, ACEGID, while speaking in Ede, said Lassa fever virus originated from Nigeria about 1,060 years ago.
He further explained that the disease spread to other West African countries about 400 years ago, stressing that Yoruba have capacity to resist the virus more than any other ethnic group in country.
He added, “Using next generation sequencing approach, we have identified a signal of natural selection in human gene called LARGE in the Yoruba populations of the South-West of Nigeria that may be associated with protection to Lassa fever virus.
We have hypothesised the potential mechanisms of protection and believe that this could be the key to the future Lassa fever vaccine.” Meanwhile, a 28-year-old lady has died of Lassa fever in Ogun State. The Ogun State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Babatunde Ipaye, said that the young lady was the first to have died of the disease in the state. Ipaye, who said this during a press conference held at Oke Mosan in Abeokuta on Thursday, said the victim had travelled to Ebonyi for a burial programme and returned to Ogun on January 15, and later started manifesting the symptoms of the viral disease.