Volume 43, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Patients with severe Lassa fever have high serum levels of liver enzymes. Studies of the histology of the liver have shown only minor alterations, seemingly insufficient to account for death. Pichinde virus is an arenavirus which causes severe illness similar to Lassa fever in strain 13 guinea pigs, but does not cause severe illness in man. This can serve as a relatively safe model for studying the pathology and pathophysiology of fatal arenaviral infection. We used this infection to evaluate the effect of arenavirus on liver morphology and function. When guinea pigs were infected with Pichinde virus, all developed severe disease and died within 14 days of infection. The animals lost large amounts of weight. Higher levels of virus were detected in the liver than in serum. Aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase were elevated late in the course of the disease; no elevations were seen in gamma glutamyl transpeptidase or bilirubin. Alkaline phosphatase, initially high in these growing animals, was markedly decreased early in infection. Prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time were increased late in the disease, and decreased levels of Factors VIII and IX were seen relatively early. Fatty metamorphosis, indicating problems in lipid processing, occurred by day 11, but necrosis was minor and occurred late. Pichinde virus infection results in significant alterations in the metabolic and synthetic capacities of the hepatocytes early in infection in the absence of significant necrosis.


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