Langya (LayV) is a henipavirus, the genus that includes the Hendra and Nipah viruses. According to an article in New Scientist it appears to be “most closely related to Mojiang henipavirus”, which was linked to the onset of severe pneumonia and death in three men in 2012. The virus was discovered when a group of patients with fever and a “recent history of animal exposure” were monitored in Eastern China. LayV was identified in a throat swab from one of these patients.
Later analysis revealed that 35 known cases of LayV have been detected in the Shandong and Henan provinces of China between 2018 and 2021. No evidence of human transmission has been found so far, but the sample size is too small to rule this out. Researchers tested 25 species of animals and found 27% of the 262 shrews surveyed had “detectable levels of LayV”. This suggests that the natural reservoir may be shrews.
Dr Olivier Restif of the University of Cambridge stated that LayV is unlikely to spread between people:
“I don’t think this has much pandemic potential.”
As so few cases have been detected over recent years, researchers are not seriously concerned about transmission. Professor Francois Balloux of University College London states echoes Dr Restif’s sentiment:
“The virus is unlikely to be something that passes from person to person easily and can easily cause an epidemic or pandemic.”
However, he does predict that the “most likely source” of future pandemics will be zoonotic spillover. He warns that we must be better prepared for another episode in the “coming decades”. The CDC estimates that 3 out of 4 new or emerging diseases in people will come from animals. The UN has also warned that climate change and wildlife exploitation will lead to an increase in such diseases.
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