A new 'Langya' virus carried by shrews is infecting dozens in China

Fever, fatigue, cough, loss of appetite, and muscle aches are some of the symptoms of the virus that originated in shrews.
Baba Tamim
A shrew pictured in the forest
A shrew pictured in the forest

Michael Meijer/iStock 

  • Few patients also showed evidence of liver and kidney damage as well as abnormal blood cells.
  • So far, there is no evidence that the illness can spread from person to person.
  • The patients are primarily farmers.

A newly discovered virus has affected over three dozen people in the Shandong and Henan provinces of China.

The virus, named Langya henipavirus or LayV, belongs to the same family as the dangerous Nipah and Hendra viruses, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

"Investigators in China identified a new henipavirus associated with a febrile human illness,” read the paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

“This virus was also found in shrews.”

So far, there is no evidence that the illness can spread from person to person.

Researchers were able to detect feverish people with a recent history of exposure to animals in eastern China. Thanks to an early detection system.

The patients, primarily farmers, also complained of being tired, coughing, losing their appetite, and aches.

26 of the 35 patients had just LayV infections, the researchers documented.

A few of the patients also showed evidence of liver and kidney damage as well as abnormal blood cells. However, everyone lived.

The research highlighted that tests revealed the virus in 27 percent of shrews, a recognized vector for related henipaviruses, suggesting the small, hairy creatures may represent a natural reservoir.

There was no evidence they had been in close contact or had a common exposure history, suggesting human infection may be sporadic, the researchers said.

The Centers for Disease Control in Taiwan stated that they are aware of the issue and intend to begin conducting virus screenings.

Scientists analyzed over 200 shrews and discovered the LayV viral RNA in them, suggesting they may serve as the virus's natural reservoir.

The virus was also found in two percent of domestic goats and five percent of dogs, reported The Guardian.

What do we know about Langya henipavirus or LayV?

LayV, which is related to the severe Nipah and Hendra strains, is thought to have spread from animals to people through a mechanism known as zoonosis.

Zoonosis is a frequent occurrence responsible for more than six out of every ten infectious diseases in humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Henipavirus genus, of which Langya is a member, has a single-stranded RNA genome with a negative orientation. The southern Chinese virus known as Mojiang is closely linked to the virus.

Henipaviruses are currently not covered by any vaccinations. Doctors and other medical experts can only offer supportive care for the various symptoms as a form of treatment.

The researchers from Beijing, Singapore, and Australia say more research is necessary to comprehend the virus.

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