A new type of animal-derived Henipavirus has so far infected people in Shandong and Henan provinces of China, official media here reported on Tuesday. The new type of Henipavirus (also named Langya henipavirus, LayV) was found in throat swab samples from febrile patients in eastern China, state-run Global Times quoted media reports.
Henipaviruses are classified as biosafety level 4 (BSL4) pathogens. They can cause severe illness in animals and humans, and as of now there are no licensed drugs or vaccines meant for humans.
Here’s all we know about the Langya henipavirus:
What is the Langya virus?
The newly discovered virus is a “phylogenetically distinct Henipavirus”, according to a recent study titled, ‘A Zoonotic Henipavirus in Febrile Patients in China’, published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
Among several types of Henipaviruses such as Hendra, Nipah, Cedar, Mojiang, the Ghanaian bat virus, the US’ Centre for Disease Control says that only Hendra and Nipah infect humans and can cause fatal illness.
Langya, meanwhile, is known to cause fever, with the NEJM study calling for a deeper investigation of associated human illness.
“The cases of Langya henipavirus so far have not been fatal or very serious, so there is no need for panic,” Wang Linfa, a Professor in the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School who was involved in the study said, adding that it is still a cause for alert as many viruses that exist in nature have unpredictable results when they infect humans.
What are the symptoms to Langya virus?
The NEJM study looked at the 35 China patients in Shandong and Henan provinces and observed that 26 of them were infected with only the Langya Henipavirus and no other pathogens.
These people showed clinical symptoms such as fever, irritability, cough, anorexia, myalgia, nausea, headache and vomiting.
While all 26 had fever, 54% reported fatigue, 50% had cough, 38% complained of nausea. Also, 35% of the total 26, complained of headache and vomiting. The study found that 35% had impaired liver function, while 8% had their kidney function impacted, the Indian Express quoted data from the study.
Can Lagya virus be transmitted from human to human?
The authors of the study have underlined that the sample size of their investigation is too small to determine human-to-human transmission. However, they point out that among the 35 patients infected by LayV, there was “no close contact or common exposure history”, which suggests that the “infection in the human population may be sporadic”.
The spread of germs from animals to humans, called zoonosis, is common, accounting for more than six of out of every 10 known infectious diseases in people, according to the CDC. Most of the time they cause limited disease, dying out without having a major impact.
Is there a vaccine for Langya virus?
There is currently no vaccine or treatment for Henipavirus and the only treatment is supportive care to manage complications.
Langya virus is a newly detected virus and therefore, Taiwan’s laboratories will require a standardized nucleic acid testing method to identify the virus, so that human infections could be monitored, if needed, Taiwan’s CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said.
Providing details of the serological survey conducted on domestic animals, he said that 2 percent of the tested goats and 5 percent of the tested dogs were positive.
The test results of 25 wild animal species suggest that the shrew (a small insectivorous mammal resembling a mouse) might be a natural reservoir of the Langya henipavirus, as the virus was found in 27 percent of the shrew subjects, the CDC Deputy DG said.
(With agency inputs)