Scientists Identify 35 Cases of New Spillover Virus in China

Courtesy of US Marine Corps (DVIDS PDM)

Scientists identified 35 individuals infected with a virus not typically found in humans. The novel henipavirus, Langya (LayV), was found in China’s Shandong and Henan provinces. Those infected are thought to have contracted the pathogen from animals.

Contract tracing conducted for nine of the infected individuals found that among 15 close-contact family members tested negative for LayV. Based on this data and observation, researchers determined that during the “roughly two-year review period,” Langya was not transmitted between humans.

After researchers tested 25 species of small wild animals for the pathogen, 27% of the 262 shrews revealed detectable LayV levels. As a result, they hypothesized the people, mostly farmers, were infected by shrews.

Courtesy of Hanna Knutsson (Flickr CC0)

Genetic sequencing led researchers from China, Singapore, and Australia to determine that Langya is part of the henipavirus genus, which has five other identified viruses.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) advises travelers that Hendra and Nipah viruses are severe pathogens that cause infections in humans. The Hendra variant was first identified in Australia in 1994; the Nipah was first recognized in Malaysia in 1999. Both have high case-fatality ratios.

The most common symptoms exhibited by those infected with LayV, in descending order: fever, fatigue, cough, and muscle aches and pains. Less than a third reported feeling nauseous, had a headache, or experienced vomiting.

When asked how much people should worry about Langya, Dr. Olivier Restif, a senior lecturer in epidemiology in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge, and  Francois Balloux at University College London concur the pathogen does not have the potential of becoming an epidemic or pandemic, especially since LayV is not passed between human. Moreover, with just 35 infections identified between December 2018 and May 2021, the virus is not spreading fast.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware


The Washington Post: New Langya virus that may have spilled over from animals infects dozens; by Amy Cheng
BBC: Langya: New virus infects 35 people in eastern China; by Melissa Zhu
Global Times: China’s Shandong and Henan detect new zoonotic virus, 35 people reportedly infected
NewScientist: Langya virus: How serious is the new pathogen discovered in China? By Jason Arunn Murugesu

Featured and Top Image by US Marine Corps Cpl. Anabel Abreu Rodriquez Courtesy of DVIDS – Public Domain License
Inset Image Courtesy of Hann Knutsson’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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