The latest monkeypox virus now emerging in several countries appears to be most closely related to the strain that circulated in 2018-2019, according to a draft genome sequence of a recent case.
Sequencing of a skin lesion sample from an infected patient in Portugal – where at least 20 confirmed cases have been reported – indicates that the most recent monkeypox virus belongs to the West African branch. It is closely related to cases that spread from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore in 2018 and 2019, according to Joao Paulo Gomez, PhD, of the Doutor Ricardo Jorge National Institute of Health in Lisbon, and colleagues.
The group, whose findings are published on the preprint server virological.org, said the draft genome sequences “will certainly contribute to a better understanding of epidemiology, sources of infection, and transmission patterns.”
Experts said MedPage today There is nothing that stands out as alarming from the draft sequence.
“So far, the sequencing has not indicated that the virus is fundamentally different from others we know,” said Grant McFadden, PhD, of the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines, and Virotherapy at Arizona State University.
said William Schaffner, MD, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee MedPage today That this initial sequence indicating the new strain of monkeypox in West Africa “fits well with early epidemiological information.”
“We already have some epidemiological information that suggests that it is possible that someone from or visiting Nigeria was the person who transmitted monkeypox to Europe,” he said.
Over the past month, monkeypox has spread to several countries where it has rarely appeared in years past, leading researchers to wonder if a more transmissible strain has emerged. The United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, France, Canada, Sweden and Italy have confirmed confirmed or suspected cases.
Recently, monkeypox was detected in the United States in a Massachusetts individual who had traveled to Canada; A potential case in New York City is under investigation as well.
Monkeypox is endemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in some countries of Central and West Africa, and is spread through direct or indirect contact with animals. Human-to-human transmission is thought to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets, but other means include direct contact with bodily fluids or pests, and contact with allotropes.
The disease usually begins with flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph node, followed by a rash on the face and body. The West African strain, confirmed in the UK, has a mortality rate of around 1%.
Experts emphasized that there is no reason for excessive concern so far. “This is not, and I confirm that the word ‘not’ in all capital letters, are highly transmissible viruses,” Schaffner said.
“This is a virus that requires very close – and usually practical – contact with another person, or very long and close contact with someone,” he said. “This should not be confused with COVID and the way COVID is spread.”
The CDC has suggested that several recent cases of monkeypox have been spread through sexual contact, including among men who have sex with men. If this turns out to be the case indeed, McFadden said, “there are good reasons to believe it can be eradicated.”
“We will learn a lot in the next two weeks,” he added. “But that’s not really something to worry about. There’s a good vaccine, and there are good antiviral drugs in this family.”
Schaffner added that with the rapid shift in sequencing in this day and age, experts can begin to understand outbreaks like the current ones much sooner. “Look at how quickly science is getting hold of the genome and sequence of new pathogens,” he said. “It’s only a matter of days.” “Scientifically, and from a public health standpoint, that’s very exciting.”