Portuguese scientists discovered 50 variants of the virus that could have explained its spread to humans.
New research indicates that the monkeypox virus can mutate much quicker than anticipated when it is transmitted to humans. This could explain the rapid spread of this disease.
Portuguese researchers have published the findings of a research that was published in Nature Medicine Friday. “rapid application of high-throughput shotgun metagenomics” as they began reconstructing the first genome sequences of the 2022 ‘version’ of the monkeypox virus.
Researchers discovered the 2022 virus is different from related 2018-19 viruses due to 50 SNP mutations. This refers to changes occurring in just one nucleotide within the genome. It is approximately six- to twelve times more. “than one would expect considering previous estimates of the substitution rate for orthopoxviruses (one or two substitutions per site per year).”
“Such a divergent branch might represent accelerated evolution,”According to the researchers, However, they noted that more research is needed on this matter.
“Considering that this 2022 monkeypox virus is likely a descendant of the one in the 2017 Nigeria outbreak, one would expect no more than five to 10 additional mutations instead of the observed about 50 mutations. We hope that now, specialized groups will perform laboratory experiments in order to understand if this 2022 virus has increased its transmissibility,” one of the study’s authors, head of the Genomics & Bioinformatics Unit at the National Institute of Health in Portugal, Joao Paulo Gomes, told Newsweek.
This news was made as the World Health Organization considered whether to classify the outbreak as an international public health emergency.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as of June 23rd, 3,504 monkeypox cases had been reported in 44 countries. However, the largest number of cases was recorded in the United Kingdom (with 793 cases).
With the disease spreading predominantly among gay men, the СDС has cautioned doctors not to mistake it for more common sexually transmitted diseases.
At the moment, mass vaccinations against monkeypox are not recommended by WHO. The UK Health Security Agency made the announcement on June 21. “some gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox should be offered vaccines to help control the recent outbreak of the virus.”
Monkeypox can cause fever, headaches, muscle aches and backaches as well as swollen lymph glands, swelling, fatigue, and chills. A rash can appear on the forehead and spread to other areas of the body. The WHO however has reported that some patients with the current epidemic are experiencing lesions in their genitals or anus and do not have the flu-like symptoms.
It can spread through close contact to lesions, bodily fluids, and respiratory droplets.
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