Monkeypox DNA sequences hint at virus spread since 2017: report

An outbreak of monkeypox, which has seen more than 780 laboratory-confirmed cases in 27 countries, may have spread outside Africa since 2017, according to scientists who have analyzed its DNA.

The virus is known to be endemic in West and Central Africa, and this is the first time that the disease has spread geographically outside Africa.

“Therefore, we suggest that the pattern we see … means that there has been ongoing human-to-human transmission since at least 2017,” Ian O’Toole and a team from the University of Edinburgh in the UK wrote in a report.

The World Health Organization has confirmed that the monkeypox virus may be spreading “undetected”.

“The sudden appearance of monkeypox in several countries at the same time suggests that there may have been undetected transmission for some time,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

Furthermore, the UK team sequenced the genome of the monkeypox virus, finding that the viruses responsible for the new cases were closely related to those detected in a small number of cases in Israel, Nigeria, Singapore and the UK between 2017 and 2019, a new scientist reported.

There are as many as 47 DNA letter changes in the latest viruses compared to these previous cases. This is an unexpectedly high number given that monkeypox is thought to develop slowly, with about one mutation each year.

About 42 of these 47 changes involve changing the DNA letters TT to TA or GA to AA. A group of human enzymes called APOBEC3 help defend against viruses by causing mutations in their DNA, the report said, and these are the kinds of changes they produce.

“If these APOBEC3 modifications are specifically indicative of redundancy in humans in contrast to other host species, this would confirm that this entire branch represents the onset of a human epidemic by 2017,” O’Toole said in a recent update of their report. .

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that three of the 10 monkeypox viruses that were sequenced in the US also showed some differences, while still being linked to the 2017 virus.

The three cases were found in people who traveled to different countries in Africa and the Middle East in 2021 or 2022.

Infection can be caused by independent instances of transmission of the virus from an animal reservoir to humans. But because there are a lot of APOBEC3-like mutations, monkeypox can be said to be more widespread in people in Africa since 2017, according to the report.

However, the researchers were surprised to discover that the viruses in existence may be less favorable than the viruses of 2017, because they accumulate a lot of potentially harmful mutations.

“The mutations that we see in the virus today are certainly not mutations that kill the virus or we won’t see it, the virus will be dead. But maybe there are still some mutations that pull it off a little bit, which adds to the mutational burden,” Emma Hodcroft of the University of Bern in Switzerland was quoted as saying.

While this is reassuring, we shouldn’t assume that monkeypox wouldn’t evolve to be better at spreading among people if we gave it a chance to do so, she says.

While cases of monkeypox may have been mild so far, Hodcroft said, this may not be true if the monkeypox virus began infecting children or immunocompromised people.

– Jans

rvt / vd

(The title and image for this report may have been reformulated only by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is automatically generated from a shared feed.)

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2022-06-07 15:08:00

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