Scientists Warn of More Spillovers as Animal-to-Human Transmission Unveils a COVID-like Virus with Pandemic Potential

**Henipaviruses: The Next Threat to Humanity**

As COVID-19 fades away, scientists are concerned about identifying the next major pathogen that could pose a significant threat to humanity. A recent article published in Nature Communications suggests that the little-known Langya virus, which shares similarities with COVID-19, could potentially be the next large-scale threat. This virus was first identified among humans in China and causes severe respiratory symptoms with the potential to lead to fatal pneumonia. It belongs to the Henipavirus family, which has previously caused outbreaks in humans. Understanding the inner workings of these emerging viruses is crucial for preparedness.

**What are Henipaviruses?**

Henipaviruses are highly lethal paramyxoviruses that have a mortality rate of around 70%. The first two Henipaviruses identified in humans were the Nipah virus, which was initially seen in pigs in Malaysia and Singapore in the late 1980s, and the Hendra virus, first observed in racehorses and humans in Australia in 1994. Natural carriers of Henipaviruses include pigs, fruit bats, cats, dogs, horses, and humans. While outbreaks of the Hendra virus have been limited to Australia, Nipah has posed a greater problem. Outbreaks have occurred in Bangladesh and India, caused by different strains of the virus, likely due to consumption of contaminated fruits or fruit products.

Transmission of Nipah among humans has been reported, while avian flu has failed to become a global health problem due to its inability to effectively transmit between humans. Hendra and Nipah viruses can present with respiratory illness and severe flu-like symptoms and may progress to encephalitis and other neurologic symptoms. New Henipaviruses continue to be discovered in animals, such as the Cedar virus in fruit bats in Australia, the Ghana virus in bats in Africa, and the Gamak & Daeryong viruses in shrews in Korea. The ability of Henipaviruses to infect a wide range of hosts and cause significant mortality in humans makes them a public health concern.

**How does Langya virus compare to other Henipaviruses?**

Langya virus is most closely related to the Mòjiāng virus, which presents symptoms similar to the initial COVID-19. Both Langya and Mòjiāng are known to cause severe pneumonia. Similar to COVID-19, Mòjiāng tends to cause ground-glass opacities on lung X-rays and severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The Mòjiāng virus was discovered in 2012 when it sickened miners who had contact with bats in China. A coronavirus closely related to COVID-19 was also found in the same location, raising questions about the similarities between the two viruses.

**Is there a vaccine or treatment for Langya virus or other Henipaviruses?**

Currently, there is no vaccine or specific treatment for Langya virus or other Henipaviruses. However, the World Health Organization prioritizes research in vaccines and therapeutics for this group of viruses due to their high case fatality rates and the global migration of fruit bats that harbor them. A vaccine for the Hendra virus is available for animals, and trials of a similar vaccine are underway in humans. However, this vaccine is unlikely to work against Langya or the Mòjiāng virus. Researchers are working on developing broad-spectrum vaccines that can protect against various Henipaviruses in humans to better prepare for future outbreaks.

In conclusion, the Langya virus and other Henipaviruses pose a potential threat to global health. Understanding the similarities and patterns of these viruses is crucial for preparedness and developing effective vaccines and treatments. The world must learn from the unpreparedness during the COVID-19 pandemic to be better equipped for the next viral outbreak.

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