Unravelled: What is Langya virus that affected 35 people in China?

According to reports, the virus was found in throat swab samples of febrile patients in eastern China.

Langya virus
Representational Image

New Delhi: Barely three years after the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, yet another concern is worrying people, especially on social media — the novel Langya Henipavirus (LayV). China has already seen 35 new cases and the virus was first detected in the northeastern provinces of Shandong and Henan in 2018. However, the official detection only happened last week.

According to reports, the virus was found in throat swab samples of febrile patients in eastern China. Most of the early patients of the virus were farmers, who complained of fatigue, cough, loss of appetite, and aches. Some others, reports said, showed signs of blood-cell abnormalities and signs of liver and kidney damage. However, there has been no death due to the virus till now.

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Here’s a quick look at what is Langya virus

It is suspected that the Langya virus has jumped from animals to the humans in a process known as zoonosis. Scientists have found LayV viral RNA in more than 200 shrews they tested, hinting that they could be the natural reservoir of the virus. The virus was also detected in 2% domestic goats and 5% dogs, suggest some media reports.

In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), scientists last week noted that “investigators in China identified a new henipavirus associated with a febrile human illness. This virus was also found in shrews”.

What is Langya virus?

A part of the genus Henipavirus, Langya has a single-stranded RNA genome with a negative orientation. Among the unique features of the henipaviruses Paramyxovirinae are their larger genomes, longer untranslated regions that are over 100 amino acids longer than any other known phosphoprotein in the family, the scientists said. They further noted that it is an emerging cause of zoonosis in the Asia-Pacific region.

Symptoms of Langya virus?

The scientists, who studied 26 patients, said all of them had fever. They added that 54% complained of fatigue, 50% had cough and 38% complained of nausea. They further said that 35% of the 26 complained of headache and vomiting.

As much as 35% had impaired liver functions, while 8% had their kidney functions impacted. The patients were accompanied by abnormalities of “thrombocytopenia (35%), leukopenia (54%), impaired liver (35%) and kidney (8%) function”, the study said.

Cure for Langya virus

While there is no clear answer yet, researchers are engaged in further studies and since Langya virus holds a biosafety Level 4 virus classification with a 40-75 per cent fatality rate, a vaccination may soon be thought.

Earlier, the other types of Henipaviruses that were identified are Hendra, Nipah, Cedar, Mojiang and the Ghanaian bat virus.

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