Langya henipavirus, a new zoonotic virus discovered in China, has the potential to cause acute liver and kidney infection. According to an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) by scientists from China and Singapore, approximately 35 people have been affected.
The new Langya henipavirus (LayV) was discovered in a throat swab sample of febrile patients with a recent history of animal exposure in eastern China, according to the study.
A subsequent investigation identified 35 patients with acute LayV infection in the Chinese provinces of Shandong and Henan, of whom 26 were only infected with LayV. (no other pathogens were present).
These 26 patients presented with fever (100%), fatigue (54%), cough (50%), anorexia (50%), myalgia (46%), nausea (38%), headache (35%), and vomiting (35%), as well as abnormalities of thrombocytopenia (35%), leukopenia (54%), and impaired liver (35%), and kidney (8%) function.
There was also no close contact or common exposure history among the patients, implying that the infection is sporadic in the human population.
The researchers said that contact tracing of 9 patients with 15 close-contact family members revealed no close-contact LayV transmission, but the sample size was too small to determine the status of human-to-human transmission for LayV.
According to Shanghai-based media thepaper.cn, henipavirus is one of the important emerging causes of zoonosis in the Asia-Pacific region, noting that both Hendra virus (HeV) and Nipah virus (NiV) from this genus are known to infect humans, with fruit bats serving as the natural host for both viruses.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) data, henipavirus can cause severe disease in animals and humans and is classified as a biosafety Level 4 virus with case fatality rates ranging from 40 to 75 percent, which is significantly higher than the coronavirus fatality rate.
Henipavirus currently has no vaccine or treatment, and the only option is supportive care to manage complications.
According to Wang Linfa, a Professor in the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School, there is no need for panic because the cases of Langya henipavirus so far have not been fatal or very serious.
However, it is still cause for concern because many viruses found in nature have unpredictable outcomes when they infect humans, according to Wang.
Until now, no significant spatial or temporal clustering of Langya henipavirus has been found, implying that human-to-human transmission of the virus has not been proven, despite previous reports indicating that the virus can be transmitted from person to person.
“Coronavirus will not be the last infectious disease to cause a pandemic worldwide, as new infectious diseases will have an increasingly greater impact on human daily life,” Wang Xinyu, Deputy Chief Physician at the department of Infectious Diseases of Huashan Hospital Affiliated to Fudan University, was quoted as saying.