Novel Langya henipavirus: Infection may have spread through rodent-like mammals

China reports 35 patients; Key symptoms include fever, cough & fatigue  

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Tuesday 09 August 2022
The disease may have been transmitted from shrews, small rodent like mammals that are the habitat of Langya henipavirus (LayV) Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cases of a novel Langya henipavirus (LayV) have been reported in Shandong and Henan provinces of China. So far, 35 patients have been found infected with the zoonotic virus, indicating the first reports of animal-to-human transmission. 

No human deaths have been reported due to LayV, which has a distinct genome. Infectious diseases transmitted between animals and humans are called zoonotic diseases.

The disease may have been transmitted from shrews, small insectivorous mammals resembling a mouse, suggested a paper, A Zoonotic Henipavirus in Febrile Patients in China, published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Shrews are the natural habitat of the virus. 

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Nipah and Hendra virus also belong to the same genus, henipavirus, from the Paramyxoviridae family. Paramyxoviridae is a family of single-stranded Ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses that cause different types of viral infections. 

These viruses are found in bats, rodents and shrews and are known to infect humans and potentially cause fatal diseases. Around 25 small wild animals were also screened and the virus was also found in animals like goats and dogs. 

According to the published article, 26 patients infected with LayV showed symptoms of fever, cough, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle pain, headache, nausea and vomiting. Other abnormalities like deficiency of blood platelets, loss in white cells, impaired liver and reduced kidney function were also reported.

All patients reported fever, while fatigue and cough were reported in 54 per cent and 50 per cent of the patients, respectively. About 50 per cent patients reported a loss of appetite, while muscle pain was observed among 46 per cent of the infected persons.

About 38 per cent of people reported nausea, while 35 per cent reported headache and vomiting. 

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Close contacts of the infected patients have been traced and so far, there have been no cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus, according to scientists. However, the possibility of spread cannot be ignored.  

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a national health institution, has claimed to be observing the developments closely related to the LayV, according to Chinese news agency Focus Taiwan.

The CDC Deputy Director Chuang Jen-Hsiang in a press briefing August 7, 2022, stated that the body is in the process of setting up domestic laboratories to perform genome sequencing and increase surveillance.

CDC aims to research routes of transmission and collaborate with the executive branch of the Chinese state agency, Council of Agriculture, said Jen-Hsiang. This will help identify whether similar diseases are found in species that are native to the region. 

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