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What Is Langya Henipavirus?

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 11, 2022

Experts have found a new virus that starts in animals and can spread to humans. They first located Langya henipavirus, or Langya virus, in eastern China. Henipaviruses are RNA viruses that start in animals. But experts don’t believe that the virus can spread easily to people. And so far, it doesn’t seem to be deadly either.

What Causes Langya Virus?

Experts studied goats, dogs, pigs, cattle, and other wild small animals to look for the animal origin of Langya virus. They found Langya virus antibodies in some goats and dogs as well as viral RNA in a large number of shrews.

Because of this, researchers think that some species of shrew carry Langya virus. They believe that humans can be infected directly from these animals or through another animal that caught Langya virus from a shrew.

But studies show that only 35 people have gotten Langya since 2018. None of these cases seem to be linked. This means that so far, human-to-human transmission is not a concern. But experts want to make sure that this virus doesn’t begin to spread more.

The experts that found the virus monitored people at three hospitals in eastern China. They looked at those with a fever between April 2018 and August 2021. The research team found that most of the 35 people with the virus were farmers. And most of them stated that they’d been in contact with an animal within a month of the onset of their symptoms.

Thankfully, experts haven’t seen anything in recent data that would suggest that Langya virus could reach a pandemic-level concern. But to keep this virus under control, it’s important that researchers continue to test people and animals regularly.

What Are the Symptoms of Langya Virus?

The Langya virus can cause respiratory symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Fatigue

The virus is similar to two other henipaviruses that can infect people. They include Hendra virus and Nipah virus. These also cause respiratory infections, but these viruses can be fatal.

How Do Doctors Treat Langya Virus?

There aren’t any approved treatments for henipaviruses. Experts have only tried a few antiviral options in animal studies. There’s no specific vaccine for the Langya virus either.

But ribavirin may be a good treatment. Doctors often use this medication for viral infections with no current treatment option. Ribavirin is helpful for RNA viruses and can be useful for those that cause respiratory issues.

Studies show that ribavirin is effective for both Hendra and Nipah viruses. The malaria drug chloroquine might also help treat these two. So these two therapies may also help control Langya virus if needed.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Nature: “New ‘Langya’ virus identified in China: what scientists know so far.”

Science Direct: “Henipavirus.”

Antiviral Research: “A treatment for and vaccine against the deadly Hendra and Nipah viruses.”

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