Test makers target monkeypox market as cases increase

Test makers target monkeypox market as cases increase

Test tubes labeled “monkeypox virus positive and negative” are shown in this illustration taken on May 23, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvik/Illustration/file photo

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LONDON (Reuters) – Diagnostic companies are racing to develop tests for monkeypox, hoping to tap into a new market as governments step up efforts to track the world’s first major outbreak of the viral infection outside Africa.

The scramble began last month, just like early 2020 when companies scrambled to make kits to help diagnose COVID-19, creating a multibillion-dollar bounty for test makers.

But the demand for monkeypox tests will be a fraction of what it has been for COVID, given that monkeypox is not as transmissible or dangerous as COVID — it usually spreads through close contact and can cause flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions that usually resolve on their own in within weeks. Read more

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And unlike the sudden onset of COVID, there are vaccines, treatments and tests that can actually help reduce the spread of monkeypox. Read more

Analysts say a new niche market could dampen – but will not offset – an expected slowdown in sales of COVID diagnostics as the need for SARS-CoV-2 testing wanes and concerns about monkeypox grow.

For example, Roche (ROG.S) generated 1.9 billion Swiss francs ($2.0 billion) in COVID test sales in the first quarter, and Barclays analyst Emily Field estimates that the tests will generate a total of 3 billion Swiss francs for the company in 2022.

“It would be very difficult for monkeypox revenues to make up for that in any meaningful way,” she said.

More than 550 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported by about 30 countries since early May. Most of them were in Europe and were not associated with travel to Africa, where the virus is endemic. Public health authorities suspect some degree of transmission in the community. No deaths have been reported.

However, the World Health Organization said it expected infections to rise as surveillance expanded and its head in Europe warned that the spread could accelerate as people gather for parties and festivals during the summer. Read more

This outbreak is significant on the monkeypox scale, but hundreds of thousands of tests are not yet needed, which was the case when COVID emerged, said Daniel Bausch, senior director of emerging threats and global health security at FIND, the global coalition. for diagnosis.

“This is not going to be the next COVID…so I don’t think the needs are huge. I don’t expect [test] Presentation to be a problem.”

test test

Some countries, including Switzerland and the Netherlands, which have reported only a handful of cases, say they currently have sufficient testing capacity for monkeypox. Britain, where nearly 200 cases have been confirmed, is expanding its capacity.

Although researchers previously had fragmented access to chemicals and other materials needed to perform monkeypox polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, kits developed by companies like Roche theoretically allow them to have everything they need in one place to process a sample in laboratory.

Kits like Roche’s have not been approved by regulators for use as a medical diagnosis – however, they are available for research purposes only.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen listed Chinese companies, including Jiangsu Bioperfectus Technologies (688399.SS), say they have added the European Union’s CE Quality Mark to their collections.

The system allows test makers to self-certify that they comply with EU regulations, so they can be sold in the region. Read more

In general, there are two types of tests: polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and antigen tests are designed to detect whether a person is currently or recently infected, while antibody tests show whether a person has previously been infected.

Monkeypox virus is part of the family of cardioviruses that also includes smallpox and cowpox

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are the gold standard test for detecting monkeypox, according to the World Health Organization, while the way antigen and antibody tests are designed makes it unlikely that a positive result is a conclusive indicator of monkeypox.

The World Health Organization says it is unclear whether individuals who are infected but have symptoms can spread the virus, so it is not known whether preventive testing for suspected cases is needed.

However, since suspected cases are expected to be isolated for up to 21 days, rapid antigen tests may be useful, given that there are currently no widespread smallpox virus diseases, said Carlos Maloquer de Motes, who directs the research group. Studying the smallpox virus. Biology at the University of Surrey.

Most diagnostic makers focus on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for monkeypox. A few others, including Tetracore Inc, are working on rapid antigen tests.

However, care must be taken.

“In practice, none of the groups, whether listed for research or otherwise, have undergone extensive verification,” Bausch said. “It would be interesting to order all the tests that suddenly appeared on the market and see what you get.”

(dollar = 0.9580 Swiss francs)

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(Covering by Natalie Grover in London). Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt, Roxanne Liu in China, Michael Shields in Zurich and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Twitter: @NatalieGrover; Editing by Matt Skovham, Josephine Mason and Mark Potter

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

2022-06-03 06:07:00

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