Langya: New Virus Discovered In China As Fears Spread Over Imminent Pandemic

Shrews could have hosted the virus before it infected humans. Image credit: Flickr / Hanna Knutsson.

The Langya virus has been discovered to be predominantly carried by shrews.

Specifically, shrews are small mole-like mammals classified in the order Eulipotyphla.

An international team of scientists is tracking a newly-identified, potentially dangerous virus that has jumped from animals to humans to infect at least 35 people in northeast China.

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The Langya henipavirus, also called “Langya” or “LayV,” was first detected in 2018 in a 53-year-old farmer who sought treatment for a fever at a hospital in the northeastern Chinese province of Shandong.

A subsequent investigation, conducted between 2018 and 2021, revealed 34 more cases of infection in Shandong and the neighboring province of Henan.

As there is yet no evidence of human-to-human transmission and the vast majority of those infected are farmers, the researchers have hypothesized that the outbreak may be the result of viral transmission from animals to humans — an event known as zoonotic spillover.

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Langya infections have so far been comparatively mild, with patients presenting with symptoms that include fever, cough, fatigue, headache, appetite loss, vomiting and muscle aches.

Several patients also developed signs of kidney and liver damage, but there have been no reported deaths thus far.

Francois Balloux, a professor of computational biology systems at University College London who was not involved in the study, wrote on Twitter, on August 9.

At this stage, LayV doesn’t look like a repeat of Covid-19 at all, but it is yet another reminder of the looming threat caused by the many pathogens circulating in populations of wild and domestic animals that have the potential to infect humans.


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