Is called Langya (LayV) and it’s a new one virus that in Chinese infected 35 people in Shandong and Henan provinces. It is part of the family of henipavirus and was identified in throat swabs by metagenomic analysis and then pathogen isolation. Described in a study by scientists from China and Singapore and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this infection – a zoonosis – causes symptoms such as fever, fatigue, cough and can also impair liver and kidney function. The genus henipavirus is one of the emerging zoonoses in the Asia-Pacific region. In fact, other viruses of this “family” have been observed, such as Hendra (HeV) and Nipah (NiV), which can infect humans and find their natural host in bats. According to the World Health Organization, henipaviruses can cause serious diseases in animals and humans and are classified with a biosecurity level 4, that is, with mortality rates between 40 and 75%. Much higher than Covid.
The study on the new virus
The investigation that led to the identification of the new virus started with a 53-year-old patient hospitalized at the end of 2018 for fever and other flu-like symptoms in a Chinese hospital where surveillance for potentially animal infections was active. Since then, 35 patients infected with the virus have been identified in Shandong and Henan provinces. Among the 26 patients infected with the Langya virus alone and whose clinical conditions the researchers report, all had fever, about half suffered from fatigue, cough, anorexia, muscle pain, lack of white blood cells; about one third had nausea, headache, vomiting, platelet deficiency, impaired liver function; less than 1 in 10 kidney problems. No deaths were reported among the 26 patients. The virus does not appear to be able to pass smoothly from human to human: “There was no close contact or common exposure history among patients, suggesting that infection in the human population may be sporadic,” the researchers write. The tracking of patient contacts also did not document any contagion. The survey among animals that came into contact with patients showed a high presence of the virus in shrews, which could be a natural reservoir of LayV.
Langya virus, characteristics and symptoms of the disease
Little is known about this specific virus but it appears to come from the shrew. At the moment there is no confirmation of the contagion between man and man or if the 35 infected have contracted the infection directly from animals. Langya causes fever, fatigue and cough, and also affects the kidneys and liver. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for henipavirus; the only therapy is the management of complications.
“Cases of Langya henipavirus have not been fatal or very serious so far, so there is no need to panic,” said Wang Linfa, professor of the emerging infectious diseases program at Duke-NUS Medical School who was involved in the study, adding that it is however a cause for concern as many viruses that exist in nature have unpredictable results when infecting humans.