June 28, 2022 -- The Monkeypox virus has recently been on an “accelerated evolution,” surprising scientists but possibly accounting for its current growth in places it doesn’t normally thrive, new research in the journal Nature Medicine says.

Monkeypox is a viral disease from the same family as smallpox, but it’s usually not as serious. Scientists have known about it since 1958, when it was found in lab monkeys used for research. It is most common in Central and West Africa.

But this May, an outbreak of the virus began being reported in other parts of the world. And by early June, 35 cases had been confirmed in the U.S. By June 27, more than 4,000 cases had been reported worldwide, mostly in Europe and North America.

For the new research, the National Institute of Health Doutor Ricardo Jorge in Portugal examined the strain behind the current outbreak.

They found it is very similar to the strain that caused an outbreak in 2018-19 in Nigeria and then mutated 50 times. It has continued to evolve in the current outbreak through human transmissions, with another 15 variations.

“This report supports the prevailing hypothesis about the current outbreak: a single imported case, amplified through one or more super-spreader events,” said Hugh Adler, MD, of the Department of Clinical Sciences at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in IFL Science. Adler was not directly involved in the new research.

“The authors describe an unexpectedly high number of mutations in the virus, but their implications for disease severity or transmissibility are unclear,” he said. “We have not identified any change in the severity of clinical disease in patients diagnosed in the current outbreak.”

There’s no specific treatment for monkeypox, which usually runs its course in 2 to 4 weeks. It is rarely fatal.

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Sources:

Nature Medicine: “Phylogenomic characterization and signs of microevolution in the 2022 multi-country outbreak of monkeypox virus”

 

IFL Science: Monkeypox Has Undergone ‘Accelerated Evolution’, Mutating At Unprecedented Rates”

 

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