New Langya virus that may have spilled over from animals infects dozens
An international team of scientists identified a new virus that was likely to have been transmitted to humans after it first infected animals, in another potential zoonotic spillover less than three years into the coronavirus pandemic.
A peer-reviewed study published in the New England Journal of Medicine detailed the discovery of the Langya virus after it was observed in 35 patient samples collected in two eastern Chinese provinces.
The researchers — based in China, Singapore and Australia — did not find evidence that the virus transmitted between people, citing in part the small sample size available.
But they hypothesized that shrews, small mammals that subsist on insects, could have hosted the virus before it infected humans.
The first Langya virus sample was detected in late 2018 from a farmer in Shandong province who sought treatment for a fever.
Over a roughly two-year period, 34 other people were found to have been infected in Shandong and neighboring Henan, with the vast majority being farmers.
Genetic sequencing of the virus subsequently showed that the pathogen is part of the henipavirus family, which has five other known viruses.
Two are considered highly virulent and are associated with high case-fatality ratios, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But none of the Langya patients died, the study stated.