Lujo is a bisegmented RNA virus — a member of the family Arenaviridae — and a known cause of viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) in humans. Its name was suggested by the Special Pathogens Unit of th
e National Institute for Communicable Diseases of the National Health
Laboratory Service (NICD-NHLS) by using the first two letters of the names of the cities involved in the 2008 outbreak of the disease, Lusaka (Zambia)
and Johannesburg (Republic of South Africa). It is the second pathogenic arenavirus to be described from the African continent — the first being Lassa virus — and since 2012 has been classed as a "Select Agent" under U.S. law.
The first case was a female travel agent who lived in the outskirts of Lusaka. She suffered from fever which grew worse with time. She was evacuated to Johannesburg for medical treatment. Almost two weeks later, the paramedic that nursed the patient on the flight to South Africa, also fell ill and was also brought to Johannesburg for medical treatment. At this time the connection between these two patients was recognized by the attending physician in the Johannesburg hospital. Together with the NICD-NHLS the clinical syndrome of VHF was recognized and specimens from the second patient were submitted for laboratory confirmation. In addition, a cleaner and a nurse that had contact with the first patient also fell ill. A second nurse was infected through contact with the paramedic. The outbreak had a high case fatality rate with 4 of 5 identified cases resulting in death.
The Special Pathogens Unit of the NICD-NHLS together with colleagues from the Special Pathogens Unit of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified the etiological agent of the outbreak as an Old World arenavirus using molecular and serological tests. Sequencing and phylogenetic investigation of partial genome sequencing indicated that this virus was not Lassavirus and likely a previously unreported arenavirus. This was corroborated by full genome sequencing that was conducted by the NICD-NHLS, CDC and collaborators from Columbia University in New York.
Symptoms of this particular virus include fever, shock, organ failure, and coma.