Researchers in Sierra Leone are looking at how to prevent Lassa fever - a particularly nasty haemorrhagic virus which can wipe out entire households - by controlling the multimammate rat, which carries the disease. In the past, research on Lassa fever has tended to focus on detection, vaccine development and treatment. This may reflecting the fact that wealthier countries fear the emergence of such viruses "out of Africa", as they see it. But there is much less evidence on prevention and control in areas where the disease is endemic.
The spread of Lassa could be affected by the way many houses are built (with wattle and daub walls, and mud floors), as well as changes in land use (as some farmers move from subsistence rice farming to more commercially-attractive cassava, rubber and biofuel production).
Dr Lina Moses, one of the researchers in the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa consortium, has written an article for the Guardian's Global Development Professionals Network about efforts to investigate how this largely neglected disease could be understood and controlled at a local level.
You can also listen to Melissa Leach interviewing Dr Donald Grant, Chief Physician of the Lassa ward at the Kenema Government Hospital, in the IDS podcast below.
This article was originally posted on the The Crossing.