Previous studies have shown that haemorrhage in Lassa fever is associated with abnormal in vitro platelet aggregation and a high mortality. In Sierra Leone we studied platelet aggregation in healthy local subjects, patients with laboratory-confirmed Lassa fever and febrile patients in whom Lassa virus infection was excluded. There were no significant differences in the mean platelet counts of these groups. Patients with fulminant Lassa virus infection showed a gross depression of in-vitro platelet responsiveness to 1 and 5 microM ADP and 4 micrograms/ml collagen compared to other groups (P = 0.0004-0.0008 when compared to healthy controls, P = 0.002-0.0008 when compared to mild Lassa fever patients). When plasma samples from five of these patients were mixed 1:1 with control platelet-rich plasma, a marked inhibition of ADP-induced aggregation was observed. No inhibitory activity was detected in plasma obtained from healthy subjects or febrile control patients. The presence of inhibitor was strongly associated with the occurrence of haemorrhage (P = 0.03), depression of platelet aggregation (P = 0.004) and severity of Lassa fever (P = 0.007).