In the grip of the Chinese military threat, Taiwan announced on Sunday August 7 that a new virus, baptized “Langya henipavirus (LayV)”, had been discovered in China. Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have reported 35 people infected in Shandong and Henan, two provinces located in the east of the country, reveals the Taipei Times, a Taiwanese newspaper in the English language. The pathogen has since been placed under surveillance. The world takes stock of what we know about this virus.
- A study conducted between 2018 and 2021
The announcement of the discovery of this new virus by Taiwan is based on a study published in the New England Journal of MedicineThursday August 4, and carried out by researchers from universities and institutes in China, Singapore and Australia.
The survey was carried out between 2018 and 2021, with patients with fever and in contact with animals before their symptoms appear. These scientists were studying zoonoses (infectious diseases transmitted to humans by animals), and managed to identify a new virus of the henipavirus genus, since baptized “Langya henipavirus” (LayV).
- No deaths recorded to date
The study identifies thirty-five patients, mainly farmers located in these two Chinese provinces, suffering from a Langya henipavirus infection; among them, twenty-six were only infected with LayV.
According to this survey, all developed a fever and more than half of them suffered from fatigue, cough, loss of appetite and a decrease in their white blood cells. Vomiting, nausea, headache and muscle aches, as well as low platelet count and liver failure have also been reported in more than a third of patients. All apparently survived – the study making no mention of death.
- Shrews are believed to be the source of contamination
The conclusions of the study suggest that shrews, small mammals resembling whiskered moles, could be the source of contamination. Asked about this by the Taipei Timesthe Deputy Director General of the CDC in Taiwan, Chuang Jen-hsiang, explained that according to the researchers and authors of the study, who carried out serological tests on twenty-five species of animals, the virus had been detected in 27% of shrews tested. Only 2% of goats and 5% of dogs tested tested positive for this virus.
- An infection that does not spread quickly
Nothing indicates, to date, that this pathogen can be transmitted from human to human, explains Chuang Jen-hsiang to the Taiwanese daily:
“The thirty-five patients in China had no close contact with each other, no common exposure history, and contact tracing showed no viral transmission among close contacts and family. , suggesting that human infections may be sporadic. »
The professor of biology at University College London, François Balloux, recalled, in a series of messages published on Twitterthat the infection “does not spread rapidly in humans” and that, at this stage, “LayV does not look like a repeat of Covid-19 at all”.
It is more, he says, a “reminder of the threat posed by the many pathogens circulating in the wild and domestic animal population that have the potential to infect humans”.
This spread is common and accounts for more than six out of ten known infectious diseases in humans, according to the CDC, in the United States. Most of the time, these germs cause limited illnesses and die out without having a major impact. Since the Covid-19 epidemic, additional tracking systems are now in place and detect new pathogens.
“Each year, several viruses emerge in humans without causing epidemics. [Le LayV] has been circulating quietly for several years and we are not in an emergency situation as was the case with SARS-CoV-2. There are no particular concerns at this stage, but the need for further studies”abounds Yannick Simonin, virologist from the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, at the University of Montpellier, interviewed by The Parisian.
“As the Langya virus is a newly detected virus, Taiwanese laboratories will have to establish a standardized method of testing”, concluded the deputy director general of the Taiwanese CDC. Further investigation is still needed to better understand this infection, the researchers behind the study said.