Monkeypox mutates at 12 times the expected rate, making it potentially more infectious than previous versions of the virus, experts warn
- The current strain of monkeypox virus circulating around the world is mutating at a faster rate than expected
- Experts believe it has been in circulation since 2018 and has mutated 12 times more than it should have since then
- The current outbreak includes more than 3,500 cases in nearly 50 countries, including just over 200 in the United States
- Researchers believe the reason this version of the virus managed to spread so quickly was because of its many mutations
The strain of monkeypox virus that has emerged around the world in recent weeks may be evolving at an abnormally rapid rate, making it more contagious than previous versions of the virus.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found that the virus has reproduced up to 12 times its expected rate since 2018.
This means that the virus, which is generally thought to be spread through physical contact, contaminated surfaces or very close body contact, might be able to spread in ways atypical of the normal patterns of tropical viruses.
This would explain the recent global monkeypox update, where 201 cases were detected in 25 US states and Washington DC, with more than 3,500 cases detected worldwide in countries where the virus is not endemic.
Researchers have found that the current strain of monkeypox virus that has caused worldwide outbreaks of the tropical virus is mutating at a rate 12 times higher than expected. This makes it potentially more transmissible
The researchers, whose findings are awaiting official publication in the wild, collected and studied 15 samples of the monkeypox virus for the study.
The NIH team restructured the genetic information of the virus to find the number of changes the virus has undergone since this strain began circulating.
While the virus has been detected in human populations only recently, experts believe this strain of West African monkeypox began its movement across the world in 2018.
How viruses mutate and circulate is a generally known science. DNA viruses like monkeypox don’t usually mutate rapidly – like COVID-19 does.
The nature of the virus allows it to correct errors that appear when it replicates, leaving far less room for mutations to form – and in fact limiting the number of variants.
When researchers investigated this strain of the virus, they found that it had mutated between six and 12 times the generally accepted rate for the virus.
Why exactly that can’t be determined, though experts believe it could play a role in how the virus has managed to take the world by storm this year.
Cases of monkeypox have emerged in nearly 50 countries where it is not endemic in recent weeks.
While non-endemic countries will sometimes find cases — two were detected in the United States in 2021 — infections are usually easy to find and outbreaks can be controlled by health officials once they catch wind of it. traffic.
This outbreak was different, however, with cases rapidly being detected en masse around the world. This could signal that a more infectious version of the virus is on the way.
The 201 cases in the United States this year are believed to be a serious undercount, as some experts have warned the country lacks the testing and tracking capacity to keep up to date with every new case.
The version of monkeypox that is spreading around the world is of the West African variety, but it is mutating at a rate you wouldn’t expect from a DNA virus (file photo)
Some even fear that the virus could become endemic in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries around the world.
Most of the infections that have been spotted in the current outbreak are in gay and bisexual men, both in the United States and in Europe.
California, America’s most populous state, has so far recorded 51 infections – the most of any state. New York and Illinois also recorded 35 and 26 respectively.
With the way the virus has spread through sex networks, some fear Pride festivities across America this past weekend could lead to an increase in cases.
In preparation, New York City health officials began rolling out monkeypox vaccines to the city’s population last week.
However, the supply of snaps quickly dwindled as walk-in dates were halted on Friday due to high demand.
With the jab also taking around four days to fully activate, one wonders if the shots came out too late to matter before the city’s Pride Parade which saw around two million people.
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