The website The pathogen responsible for the current outbreak of monkeypox has mutated in a surprisingly strong way.According to a study carried out by members of the National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge (INSA).) in Lisbon (Portugal).
Compared to related viruses in 2018 and 2019, there are about 50 genotype differences, according to the research team, which is mainly based on the analysis of Portuguese cases. This represents approximately six to twelve times more than what would have been expected for this type of pathogen. based on previous estimates. The divergent branch could be a sign of accelerated evolution.
“Our data reveal additional clues to ongoing viral evolution and possible human adaptation,” notes Dr. João Paulo Gomeswho led the study just published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Experts had so far spoken of a fundamentally rather slow evolution of this type of virus, especially in comparison with the many mutations of the Covid-19 virus. The study authors suspect that one or more introductions from a country where the virus is persistent are the cause of the current outbreak. The website superspreader events and international travel. seems to have favored a further escalation.
Experts also suspect enzymes in the human immune system to be behind these genome changes. The researchers add that there is no indication whether the mutations favored the current spread, but that this hypothesis cannot be ruled out.
Nearly 5,000 infections
In the whole world, nearly 5,000 monkeypox infections have been reported this year.. Among these, 3,308 cases have been reported in 40 countries outside Africa. as of Wednesday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The teacher of Genetics from the FISABIO Joint Infection and Public Health Unit of the University of ValenciaFernando González Candelas, points out that “this is the first peer-reviewed article that analyzes the genome of the monkeypox virus (MPXV) from patients involved in the recently detected epidemic”.
“The study uses most of the techniques and methodologies that were used in the genomic study of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, adapting them to the specific characteristics of MPXV, such as its larger size (almost 10 times that of SARS -CoV-2) and the nature of the hereditary material (DNA instead of RNA). This site implies a lower mutation rate but, since it is a larger genome, it allows chains of transmission to be analyzed with high reliability”. explains to SMC Spain.
According to him, the most remarkable result is to demonstrate that the epidemic, detected in several countries almost simultaneously, has a single origin and, moreover, that this origin involves a virus which has undergone a significant number of modifications compared to the viruses the closest to the same species identified so far (linked to endemic viruses in central and eastern African countries). “These genetic changes seem to be linked to adaptations to the new host (humans, because the natural host of the virus is made up of various rodents and other small mammals)”, he warns from the same source.
The disease spreads through close physical contact. Although the disease can be fatal, it can be treated but comes with a phase of uncomfortable rashes. In recent hours, the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken this issue to the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, where member countries have been asked to share information with the WHO, detect cases , conduct adequate contact tracing, genome sequencing, and implement infection prevention and control measures, as well as build their capacity to prevent transmission of monkeypox.
“Although the spread of the MPXV epidemic is nowhere near as rapid or as extensive as that of SARS-CoV-2, we are facing a new example of an emerging infection that can spread rapidly around the world. and which must be treated as soon as possible to avoid more serious consequences. Genomic monitoring of these and other pathogens is one of the most powerful tools we have to achieve this goal,” concludes the Spanish expert.