Langya: All you need to know about the new zoonotic virus detected in China

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According to reports from Chinese media state, a new zoonotic virus called ‘Langya’ has been discovered in the country that has already affected 35 people. The new type of Henipavirus, also being called Langya Henipavirus or the LayV, can be transmitted from animals like shrews to humans, according to a new study titled A Zoonotic Henipavirus in Febrile Patients in China.

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According to a report published in The Taipei Times, Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control has noted although 35 people were infected, no one has died or suffered a serious illness. The outlet also mentioned that the virus has, so far, been found in China’s Shandong and Henan provinces, and human-to-human transmission has not yet been reported.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, noted that Langya was identified in a throat swab sample from one patient by means of metagenomic analysis and subsequent virus isolation. “The genome of LayV is composed of 18,402 nucleotides with a genome organisation that is identical to that of other henipaviruses.1 LayV is most phylogenetically related to Mojiang henipavirus, which was discovered in southern China,” the August 4, 2022 study stated. It further noted that among the 35 infected patients, 26 were infected with LayV only (no other pathogens were present).

Patients with acute fever (=38°C) and a history of animal exposure within one month prior to disease onset were recruited in the study conducted between April 2018 to August 2021.

Since the patients did not have close contact with each other or common exposure history, human infections might be sporadic, the study said. The authors noted that contact tracing of nine patients with 15 close-contact family members revealed “no close-contact LayV transmission, but our sample size was too small to determine the status of human-to-human transmission for LayV”.

Causes

The study found that of the 25 species of wild small animals tested, the virus was predominantly found in shrews (27 per cent) and stated it was “a finding that suggests that the shrew may be a natural reservoir of LayV”.

Symptoms

The study stated that 26 patients presented with fever (100 per cent of the patients), fatigue (54 per cent), cough (50 per cent), anorexia (50 per cent), myalgia (46 per cent), nausea (38 per cent), headache (35 per cent), and vomiting (35 per cent), accompanied by abnormalities of thrombocytopenia (35 per cent), leukopenia (54 per cent), and impaired liver (35 per cent) and kidney (8 per cent) function.

Should you worry?

For other countries, it only means being very vigilant and testing any suspicious cases with the appropriate assays to diagnose the infections early, said Dr Trupti Gilada, Infectious Disease specialist, Masina Hospital. “Since the mode of transmission is not ascertained yet, usual hygiene practices with food, animals and with individuals with fever is all that we can do currently,” Dr Gilada told indianexpress.com.

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