Portuguese scientists reveal genetic alterations. Virus has already undergone about 50 mutations

A study published this Friday in the journal ‘Nature’ explains that the genetic code of the virus detected in May 2022 differs from what was identified in 2018-2019 in a country where it is endemic.

The main author of the work is João Paulo Gomes, from the National Institute of Health Dr. Ricardo Jorge, tells the Spanish newspaper ‘El Mundo’ that researchers compared the genome of the virus that caused the 2022 outbreak with the genomes of the same virus that had already been studied in previous years. The goal: to understand where the virus that is now circulating came from.

According to a scientific article, it is estimated that the virus that currently circulates in countries where it is not endemic “will most likely have a single origin”.

The expert explains that genetic samples of the viruses were also compared in different cases of infection in the current outbreak “to see if any mutations had already emerged during the brief period of transmission from person to person”.

“The world is now facing an outbreak in several countries caused by a virus that has many more mutations than we could expect for this type of virus”, advances João Paulo Gomes to the same journal, adding the study that the virus in circulation seems to have. a “continuous accelerated evolution”, with 50 mutations detected against the viruses studied previously.

As ‘Newsweek’ writes, the group of scientists found about 50 variations between the virus now in circulation and those that had been studied four years ago.

Experts say that it is necessary to continue to investigate the behavior of the virus to understand how it interacts with the human organism and with the immune system. The more that is known about this interaction, the easier it should be to design models that help predict the spread of the virus in human populations.

To ‘Newsweek’, João Paulo Gomes says that it is not possible to say whether the mutations identified in the virus somehow affected its transmissibility. One of the mutations was generated by the interaction with a defense mechanism of the human immune system, whose function is to change the genetic composition of the viruses so that they cannot replicate in the host.

The expert says it is likely that the current outbreak is “a descendant” of another that occurred in 2017 in Nigeria. However, the study of monkeypox is still in its infancy and the questions still outweigh the answers.

There are currently more than 3,500 confirmed cases of human monkeypox infection in 44 countries, with the UK at the top of the list with 793 cases. Portugal has 328 confirmed cases, including 11 new infections detected in the last 24 hours.