Researchers have identified a new virus in about 30 people, between 2018 and 2021. Transmission between men seems very limited, and if the symptoms of the disease are severe, the study does not report any cases of death.
A new virus identified in China transmitted by animals? This familiar-sounding story comes from a study published August 4 in The New England Journal of Medicine. The authors say they have identified a new virus called Langya henipavirus, or LayV, in 35 patients. Patients have different symptoms: fever, liver dysfunction or nausea. They appear to have been contaminated by animals.
However, unlike Covid-19, the transmission of this virus seems very limited: the patients studied by the researchers were identified between the end of 2018 and May 2021. Therefore, we are a long way from the wave of cases that caused , and that still causes. , SARS-CoV-2, as highlighted the parisian.
A virus of the henipavirus family
This discovery was made as part of a study in patients from three Chinese hospitals, the researchers then recruited patients with a fever greater than 38°C with “history of exposure to an animal in the month prior to illness”. It was by analyzing samples taken from these patients that they discovered LayV in 35 of them. Of these 35 patients, only 26, ranging in age from 9 to 84 years, with a total average age of 57, were studied by the researchers because they “had no other pathogens.”
LayV is part of the henipavirus family, of which two viruses are known: Hendra and Nipah, two zoonoses. The former is “rare,” writes the World Health Organization, but “causes severe and often fatal disease in infected horses and humans.” The identified cases were mostly in Australia.
The second is “present throughout South and Southeast Asia,” writes the Institut Pasteur. “With a mortality rate of more than 70%, this virus is, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), an emerging infectious agent that is likely to trigger serious epidemics if it were to evolve to become more transmissible.”
The study does not mention cases of death due to LayV, but nevertheless describes severe symptoms in the 26 patients studied: 100% had fever, 54% fatigue, 50% cough and anorexia, 46% muscle pain, 38% nausea, 35% sore throat. headache, vomiting, and abnormalities of thrombocytopenia (profuse bleeding), 54% decreased number of white blood cells, 35% liver failure, and 8% kidney failure.
Infection in the human population appears to be ‘sporadic’
“LayV seems much less lethal” than its virus cousins, writes François Balloux on Twitterdirector of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, adding that this virus does not appear to “spread rapidly in humans”.
The researchers note that person-to-person transmission of this virus appears to be limited: “There was no close contact or common history of exposure among patients, suggesting that infection in the human population may be sporadic,” they explain. As a reminder, 35 cases have been identified in three years.
However, they write that “our sample size was too small to determine the status of person-to-person transmission of LayV.”
At the same time, the study is interested in a possible transmission from the animal, a zoonosis, like the other henipaviruses.
The virus was thus sought in the animals of the patients, the vast majority of whom are farmers, but also in wild animals. 3 goats tested positive out of 168 tested (ie 2%) and 4 dogs out of 79 (5%). Among the 25 wildlife species tested, the virus was found primarily in shrews, with 71 positive individuals out of 262 tested, or 27%.
This finding “suggests that the shrew may be a natural reservoir of LayV,” according to the study authors.
“More research to better understand” this virus
These results “justify further investigation to better understand human disease associated” with LayV, the study concludes.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) of Taiwan, after the publication of these results, has already announced that it will create a test to detect this virus and follow its transmission, reports the Taipei Times. The CDC emphasized the need to “pay close attention to new updates about the virus.”
“At this point, LayV does not seem at all like a repetition of Covid-19,” writes François Balloux, “but it remains a reminder of the imminent threat caused by the numerous pathogens that circulate in the populations of wild and domestic animals that have the potential to infect humans.
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