Scientists have discovered a new virus named Langya henipavirus (LayV) in China.
The discovery was announced in a letter written by researchers from China, Singapore and Australia and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The researchers, in their letter, said Langya virus is a type of henipavirus, a category of zoonotic viruses which can be transmitted from animals to humans.
They said acute Langya infection was identified in 35 patients in the Shandong and Henan provinces of China, among whom 26 were infected with LayV only (no other pathogens were present). They said the patients are thought to have contracted the virus from animals.
“These 26 patients presented with fever (100% of the patients), fatigue (54%), cough (50%), anorexia (50%), myalgia (46%), nausea (38%), headache (35%), and vomiting (35%), accompanied by abnormalities of thrombocytopenia (35%), leukopenia (54%), and impaired liver (35%) and kidney (8%) function. A serosurvey of domestic animals detected seropositivity in goats (3 of 168 [2%]) and dogs (4 of 79 [5%]),” the letter reads.
The researchers said there is no evidence so far that Langya virus can transmit from human to human.
“There was no close contact or common exposure history among the patients, which suggests that the infection in the human population may be sporadic. Contact tracing of 9 patients with 15 close-contact family members revealed no close-contact LayV transmission, but our sample size was too small to determine the status of human-to-human transmission for LayV,” the letter reads.
The scientists added that the Langya virus LayV was found in 27% of shrews tested, suggesting the mole-like mammals may be “natural reservoirs” for the virus.
According to the BBC, Wang Linfa, one of the researchers, said the cases of Langya virus found so far have not been fatal or very serious, so there is “no need to panic”.
He, however, added that there is still a need to be on the alert as many viruses that exist in nature have unpredictable results when they infect humans.