Top scientists have assured the public Langya virus is nothing like Covid, after reports of the new pathogen in China sparked fears of a repeat of the 2020 pandemic.
Langya henipavirus – or LayV – was found in 35 people in the eastern provinces of Henan and Shandong between December 2018 and mid-2021.
This means the virus only infects a handful of people a year since it was first identified in a 53-year-old farmer’s wife.
It was first revealed last week in a research paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, sparking fears of another mysterious flu-like virus.
But Professor Francis Balloux, an infectious disease expert at University College London, said current data suggested the virus “doesn’t spread quickly in humans.”
He added that there was little evidence that LayV can spread easily between humans, meaning it has a low pandemic potential.
“At this stage, LayV does not seem like a recurrence of Covid-19 at all, but it is yet another reminder of the imminent threat posed by the many pathogens circulating in populations of wild and domestic animals that have the potential to infect humans.” he tweeted.
This chart shows the time and location of people who developed a fever while sick with LayV alone. The first case was discovered in December 2018 and dozens more were found in 2019 and 2021
British virus expert Professor Francis Balloux of University College London said the virus does not look like a recurrence of Covid, which is also believed to have originated in animals.
Chinese experts investigating the virus think human cases are “sporadic.” They are still trying to figure out if it can spread from person to person.
Shrews, a small mole-like mammal the size of a mouse, are currently considered the main animal carrier of the virus.
Scientists tracking Langya tested a variety of small wild animals for the virus and found that shrews had the highest positive rate, 71 of 262 tested, about one in four.
The virus was also seen in a small percentage of domestic dogs (5 percent) and goats (2 percent).
Concerns about LayV have increased because it belongs to a group of pathogens called henipaviruses. Some members of this family of viruses kill up to 75 percent of those they infect.
But the newly identified pathogen has so far only caused mild, flu-like symptoms in humans, such as fever, fatigue, cough, loss of appetite and muscle aches.
LayV received international attention this week after a report of its discovery published by Chinese, Singaporean and Australian experts in the New England Journal of Medicinepublished on August 4.
The virus has never been seen in humans before and experts believe it was passed on by shrews (stock image)
What is the Langya virus?
What is the Langya virus?
Langya virus is a henipa virus first observed in humans in China.
It belongs to the same family as Nipah virus, a deadly pathogen usually found in bats.
Experts believe Langya was transmitted to humans by shrews, a small, mole-like mammal.
Where was it spotted?
The virus infected 35 people in Henan and Shandong provinces in the east of the country between December 2018 and mid-2021.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptom was fever, with all infected people developing a fever.
It was followed by fatigue (54 percent), cough (50 percent), loss of appetite (50 percent), muscle aches (46 percent), and nausea (38 percent).
Do I have to worry?
None of the Langya cases have resulted in human deaths so far, although patients have flu-like symptoms.
There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission so far, although Taiwan authorities have set up new tests to monitor its transmission.
The first cases were reported before January 2019 and have been sporadic since then.
Of the 35 patients with suspected infection, 26 (74 percent) only tested positive for the virus.
The rest were also infected with an additional virus that may have contributed to their symptoms.
The majority of confirmed patients were farm workers, the remainder factory workers and one student.
In the study, they wrote: ‘There was no close contact or common exposure history among the patients, suggesting that the infection may be sporadic in the human population.
‘Contact tracing of nine patients with 15 close relatives revealed no close-contact LayV transmission.
“But our sample size was too small to determine the human-to-human transmission status for LayV.”
The most common symptom of Langya patients was fever, with all infected people developing a fever.
It was followed by fatigue (54 percent), cough (50 percent), loss of appetite (50 percent), muscle aches (46 percent), nausea (38 percent), and vomiting (35 percent).
About 35 percent had liver problems, while 8 percent saw a decline in kidney function.
International response to LayV has been muted so far, but on Sunday, China’s neighbor Taiwan announced it would begin genome sequencing and strengthen surveillance measures for the virus, according to its report. national news agency.
Chuang Jen-hsiang, deputy director general of the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, said they were investigating possible routes of transmission.
He added that they would also work with the country’s Agriculture Council to screen native Taiwanese animals for similar diseases.
Genetically, LayV is most closely related to Mojiang virus, another hepinavirus discovered in southern China that was linked to the deaths of three miners in 2012 and was found in animals living in the caves they worked in. .
Other hepinaviruses include Nipah virus, a deadly pathogen usually found in bats.
Like Covid, Nipah can spread through respiratory droplets. But it is much more deadly, killing up to three quarters of the people it infects.
It has been listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the viruses most likely to cause the next pandemic.
The brain-swelling virus was first discovered in Malaysia and Singapore in 1999, when 300 cases led to 100 deaths.
There is currently no Nipah vaccine approved for humans – but at least eight are currently being tested on animals, including one made by the University of Oxford.