“Langya”, this new virus that you should not worry about

Image showing the structure or composition of a flu virus (Influenza).  It includes surface glycoproteins: hemagglutinins (in red) and neuraminidase (in purple)
KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty Images Image showing the structure or composition of a flu virus (Influenza). It includes surface glycoproteins: hemagglutinins (in red) and neuraminidase (in purple)


“Langya” is a new virus identified in China by Taiwanese researchers.

HEALTH – After the coronavirus, it is now the Langya virus that worries the Chinese authorities, reports the daily Taipei Times this Tuesday, August 9. This new pathogen has just been discovered in China by Taiwanese scientists, while the two countries are in the grip of serious diplomatic tensions.

The new Langya henipavirus (LayV) was first detected in the northeastern provinces of Shandong and Henan in late 2018, but was not formally identified by scientists until last week, reports the British daily. The Guardian. Only 35 cases have been identified since 2018 and all have been detected in China.

The shrew would be the reservoir of the virus

The first information about the virus was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) a few days ago. What we know for the moment is that the virus would probably be a zoonosis, that is to say a virus transmitted from animals to humans. The first tests on wild animals indicate that the shrew could be the host animal. But the virus has also been detected in goats (2%) and dogs (5%).

Infectiologists have long warned that human pressure on natural environments, such as deforestation or the intensification of agriculture, increases the risk of virus transmission from animals to humans. Today, 75% of emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonoses, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Moreover, even if the origin of Covid-19 has not been established with certainty, the track of zoonosis is favored because SARS-CoV-2 is very close to a virus detected in bats.

Not comparable with the coronavirus

Disease transmitted by an animal and discovered in China, the comparison with the coronavirus is quickly established but these two viruses are not comparable. Unlike the Covid, the langya “does not spread rapidly in humans”, explains Professor François Balloux of the UCL Genetics institute on Twitter. “If there is no human-to-human transmission, it is difficult to imagine a real epidemic because not everyone is exposed to shrews”he continues.

The virologist Yannick Simonin reminds him, in The Parisian that every year viruses emerge without necessarily causing pandemics: “This has been circulating for several years at low noise 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”.

No pandemic on the horizon, but the authors of the report of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) consider it important to carry out new studies to “ better understand human disease » responsible for dozens of reported cases.

A lethal virus that spreads little between humans

In humans, the Langya causes symptoms such as fever, fatigue, cough, loss of appetite and muscle aches. It belongs to the henipavirus family, which includes the Nipah and Hendra viruses, which are very lethal. Nipah, which caused epidemics in Southeast Asia in the early 2000s, has an estimated mortality rate of 40 to 75 percent, according to the WHO. Which is much higher than that of Covid-19. For example, in France, the fatality rate of Covid was 0.5% on April 26, 2022 according to the agency Statistics. For the moment, no vaccine exists to counter the effects of Langya.

Even if with such a high mortality rate the virus can be worrying (no death due to Langya has however been made public), the situation is not yet alarming. Again, the disease is progressing slowly and only 35 cases were recorded between April 2018 and August 2021. The Taiwan Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced on Sunday that surveillance measures for the virus will be put in place in the next few months. weeks.

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