10 August 2022

Scientists are tracking a new, animal-derived virus in eastern China that has infected at least several dozen people.

The novel Langya henipavirus (LayV) was found in 35 patients in the Shandong and Henan provinces. Many had symptoms such as fever, fatigue and a cough.

They are thought to have contracted the virus from animals. There is no evidence so far LayV can transmit among humans.

Researchers detected the virus predominantly in shrews.

The discovery was highlighted in a letter written by researchers from China, Singapore and Australia and published in the New England Journal of Medicine this month.

One of the researchers, Wang Linfa from the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, told China’s state-run Global Times that the cases of LayV found so far have not been fatal or very serious, so there is “no need to panic”.

The scientists said LayV was found in 27% of shrews tested, suggesting the mole-like mammals may be “natural reservoirs” for the virus. About 5% of dogs and 2% of goats also tested positive for it.

LayV is a type of henipavirus, a category of zoonotic viruses which can jump from animals to humans.

Zoonotic viruses are very common but have attracted more attention since the start of the Covid pandemic.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said scientists estimate that three out of every four new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals.

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