Smallpox monkeys, “surprisingly mutated virus”

The virus responsible for current monkey vaccine outbreaks “has mutated surprisingly strongly”, according to a Portuguese study published in ‘Nature Medicine’. “Compared to related viruses in 2018 and 2019”, the pathogen now has “about 50 differences in genotype”, a figure “6-12 times higher than what would have been expected for this type of virus based on previous estimates. “, they explain the authors who hypothesize an “accelerated evolution”. “Our data show further clues about the ongoing viral evolution and potential adaptation” of the Monkeypox virus “to humans”, underlines the work led by João Paulo Gomes of the Istituto Nacional de Saúde ‘Doutor Ricardo Jorge’ (Insa) of Lisbon. So far, experts had talked about a rather slow development for the pathogen, especially when compared with the mutation rate of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Portuguese scholars suspect that the origin of the new monkeypox outbreaks are one or more entrances from a country where the Monkeypox virus is persistently circulating, with ‘super spreaders’ and international travel that may have fueled a further escalation of contagions. The authors speculate that enzymes of the human immune system may also have played a role in inducing these changes in the viral genome. The researchers point out that there is currently no evidence on the possibility that the mutations are favoring the spread of the Monkeypox virus, but that it is not even possible to exclude it.

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