Monkeypox: the initial strain of the virus that appeared in Europe has already mutated 50 times, researchers warn of the risk of spread

Monkeypox: the initial strain of the virus that appeared in Europe has already mutated 50 times, researchers warn of the risk of spread

The pathogen behind the current monkeypox or monkeypox outbreak has mutated surprisingly strongly, according to a study by members of the National Institute of Health in Lisbon, Portugal.

Since its appearance in Europe in 2022, we now know a little more about the outbreak of monkeypoxbut as scientific advances progress, the confrontation with Covid-19 becomes increasingly worrying, especially in the way this smallpox virus transforms and spreads.

To begin with, therefore, the causative agent of monkeypox is the virus monkeypox of the family of smallpox virus, A very important group that includes the viruses of human smallpox and other animal smallpox “Pox” is the plural of “pock” which in English means “pustule”.

This is called “monkey” smallpox because the virus was discovered in 1958 in laboratory monkeys, but it is rather a smallpox virus hosted by rodents such as squirrels and large African rats such as the Gambian mouse. “This virus clinically resembles smallpox, but monkeypox is caused by a poxvirus other than smallpox virus,” explains the WHO. The first human case was detected in 1970, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a child who lived in an area where smallpox had been eliminated since 1968. Two strains of monkeypox are known:

The Congo strain or Central African strain (the most virulent) and the West African strain (the less virulent which appears to be the one found in current cases).

As for the 2022 cases, “Preliminary PCR test data indicate that the monkeypox virus strains found in Europe and other non-endemic areas belong to the West African clade.”where the virus first appeared, WHO said on June 4.

Except that this virus at the origin of recent monkeypox cases around the world appears to be mutating faster than expected, according to a new study published Friday, June 24 in the medical journal Nature Medicine.

One of the authors of the study, scientist João Paulo Gomes of the Portuguese National Institute of Health in Lisbon, said the world is facing an epidemic “caused by a virus presenting itself [beaucoup] more mutations than this type of virus “.

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And according to the latest research elements reported by the Europa Press agency, the fact that the virus is actively spreading from one person to another would also mean a significant mutation of the initial strain.

And the researcher adds: “It was quite unexpected to find so many mutations in the 2022 monkeypox virus. In fact, given the genome characteristics of this type of virus, no more than one or two mutations are likely to emerge each year.

However, the research team actually observed around 50 mutations in the strain. This is six to 12 times more than normal for this type of pathogen. This process could be a sign of accelerated evolution.

“Our data reveal further clues to ongoing viral evolution and possible human adaptation“says microbiologist João Paulo Gomes, who led the study.

Experts also suspect that enzymes in the human immune system are responsible for these genome changes.

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However, the researchers add that there is no proven indication that the mutations favored the current spread, without ruling out it. New research will help to learn more, but the first results already cause concern.

‘These genetic changes appear to be related to adaptations to the new host (humans, as the virus’s natural host is different from rodents and other small mammals) in a non-endemic area., warns the same source. This is why the study authors suspect that one or more introductions of mutations of this virus would be at the origin of the current epidemic. Mainstream events and overseas travel seemed to have fostered a new wave of virus mutation.

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Around the world, nearly 5,000 monkeypox infections have been reported this year. Of those, 3,308 cases have been reported in 40 countries outside Africa as of Wednesday, June 22, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Although the monkeypox epidemic is not spreading as rapidly or as widely as SARS-CoV-2, we are facing a new example of an emerging infection that can spread rapidly around the world and that needs to be stopped. as soon as possible to prevent more serious cases The genomic surveillance of these pathogens is the most relevant tool to achieve this goal “concludes the researcher.

A strong statement in a sensitive healthcare context. It is this Friday that the WHO (World Health Organization) must decide on the level of vigilance to be adopted against the monkeypox virus in the world. The global health emergency, a sign of the emergence of a pandemic, could be decreed this Friday. And the elements of this study seem to confirm fears about the evolution of the epidemic.

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