Recently, cases of a new disease have been described in China. Although outbreaks of viral diseases are relatively common, phylogenetic analysis of isolated specimens revealed a new type of virus, called Langya henipavirus.
The description of the cases associated with this new virus was published in The New England Journal of Medicine and aroused the alert of global health and epidemiological authorities.
Read too: Langya henipavirus: study warns of emergence of new virus in China
After the identification of the first case, further investigations found 35 LayV infections in the Chinese provinces of Henan and Shandong, of which 26 were monoinfections. In these patients, the main symptoms reported consisted of:
- fever (100%);
- fatigue (54%);
- cough (50%);
- anorexia (50%);
- myalgia (46%);
- nausea (38%);
- headache (35%);
- vomiting (35%).
Laboratory abnormalities were also relatively frequent findings, mainly leukopenia (54%), thrombocytopenia (35%), liver dysfunction (35%) and renal dysfunction (8%).
Possible forms of transmission
The exact mode of transmission of the new virus has not yet been identified, but serological studies have indicated previous infection in goats and domestic dogs. Among wild animal species, there was a high prevalence of positive serology in shrews (rodent mammals), which suggests that they may be natural reservoirs of LayV. However, the possibility of cross-reactivity with Mojiang henipavirus must be considered.
Interestingly, no clear temporal or spatial aggregation relationship was found between the cases, and no cases of close contact or history of exposure to a common source were identified among the patients. The number of cases is still too small to assess the possibility of person-to-person transmission of LayV.
Langya henipavirus: how did the discovery take place?
The first cases were identified through a surveillance system of febrile patients with recent contact with animals in eastern China. Through metagenomic analysis and subsequent viral isolation in swab from a patient’s oropharynx, a new virus phylogenetically related to henipaviruses, but genetically distinct from others of the same genus, was discovered.
Know more: Sabiá virus: Brazilian researchers investigate a highly lethal virus that has reappeared in the country after 20 years
Henipaviruses are a genus within the family Paramyxoviridae, to which other viruses that cause infection in humans, such as measles and mumps viruses, belong. However, henipaviruses stand out for being agents related to serious and potentially fatal diseases. These are the cases of Hendra and Nipah viruses, for example, associated with outbreaks with high lethality. Other henipaviruses have already been described infecting wild animals, such as bats and rodents, being potential agents of zoonoses.
The new virus was named Langya henipavirus (LayV) and its phylogenetics are closer to that of the Mojiang henipavirus, discovered in southeastern China.
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