- Cases of newly-identified Langya henipavirus (LayV) have been reported in China.
- LayV is related to the deadly Nipah and Hendra viruses and can cause respiratory symptoms.
- Scientists, however, explained that the virus doesn’t seem to pandemic potential, as it doesn't spread easily between people.
Scientists are closely monitoring a newly-identified virus known as “Langya henipavirus” (LayV) in China that appears to be transmitted from animals to humans.
Nature reported on Thursday that the virus can cause respiratory symptoms and is related to Nipah and Hendra viruses. The journal reported that the henipavirus cannot spread easily in people.
Here’s what we know so far:
How many cases of LayV infection had been reported?
More than 30 cases had been discovered in China, according to a New Scientist report published on Wednesday (August 10, 2022).
When was the Langya virus first detected?
The virus was first detected between December 2018 and May 2021, but it was only formally identified recently.
Cases of the Langya henipavirus (LayV) were reported mostly among farmers in the eastern provinces of Shandong and Henan between December 2018 and May 2021.
LayV appears to have a “zoonotic” origin, i.e. transmitted from animals to humans. Researchers have also shared information about the newly-discovered virus in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Where was the outbreak first recorded?
LayV and Mojiang henipavirus are seen to be closely related, according to a team of researchers led by Xiao-Ai Zhang at the Beijing Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology and Fa-Chun Jiang at China’s Qingdao Municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2012, Mojiang henipavirus was linked to the onset of severe pneumonia, and eventually death, in three men working in a derelict copper mine in China.
In the latest outbreak, a group of people with fever and a recent history of animal exposure were being monitored in eastern China, Nature reported Thursday.
What do we know about the LayV pathogen?
Experts who identified the virus said LayV forms “part of a genus of viruses called henipaviruses typically harboured in fruit bats”, according to the New Scientist, a UK-based weekly.
The same genus includes the Hendra virus, which was first identified in Australia in 1994 and is known to infect humans and horses.
The Nipah virus, first detected in 1999 in Malaysia, is also part of this genus, according to the report.
Both Hendra and Nipah are known to have a high fatality rate in people. Currently, there is no licensed vaccine or treatment for Nipah virus infection. Last month (July 2022), the US National Institutes of Health has launched a clinical trial of Nipah virus vaccine based on mRNA technology.
What are the symptoms of Langya henipavirus (LayV) infection?
People infected with LayV had symptoms including:
- Muscle aches and pains
How deadly is LayV?
There has been no fatality related to LayV infection reported so far.
How is LayV viral infection identified?
The presence of LayV virus in infected patients was identified using a throat swab sample taken from persons with the symptoms and recent history of animal exposure.
What do we know about LayV human-to-human transmission?
The researchers said there’s currently no evidence of person-to-person transmission.
For nine of the infected people, “contact tracing with 15 of their close-contact family members revealed no LayV transmission,” the report stated.
“This suggests that the virus doesn’t pass from person to person, but rather animal to person. Nevertheless, the sample size is too small to rule out person-to-person transmission.”
Besides bats, what are the animal reservoir of the Langya henipavirus (LayV)?
Researchers believe shrews “may be the virus’ natural reservoir” as 27 per cent of the more than 260 shrews they surveyed had detectable levels of LayV, the report said.
The virus was also found in 5 per cent of dogs and 2 per cent of goats.
What is the pandemic potential of LayV?
According to Olivier Restif, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Cambridge, LayV is “unlikely to become a pandemic”. The reason: it does not typically spread between people.
Restif, added: “The only henipavirus that has shown some sign of human-to-human transmission is the Nipah virus and that requires very close contact,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t think this has much pandemic potential,” Restif said.