Monkeypox is Mutating, Should We be Concerned?

Researchers have discovered that the monkeypox virus is mutating. Although this may have implications on the behavior of the virus and the disease are not known, it does concern the scientific community. We tell you why

monkey pox virus

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: La viruela del mono está mutando, ¿debe preocuparnos?

Researchers at the Minnesota Department of Health discovered mutations of the monkeypox virus while following infected people. In this virus surveillance, the scientists found that in some samples much of the virus genome was missing, having been moved to a different part of the sequence. However, it is not yet possible to understand whether these mutations are beneficial, neutral, or harmful to the virus. The truth is that they put an alert to the scientific community about the importance of continuous surveillance of outbreaks in each country and detecting different behaviors after mutations. As of October 11, monkeypox has been detected in 107 countries for a total of 71,408 cases, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC for its acronym in English.

"These mutations are a stark reminder that even poxviruses, which are DNA viruses that tend to evolve more slowly than RNA viruses, such as the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, will change over time," he told the journal Nature. Elliot Lefkowitz, a computational virologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In this sense, it is essential to remember the lessons that the pandemic has taught the world and not to underestimate what may happen with monkeypox, despite its differences from the coronavirus.

The research group analyzed 206 samples from the United States. "We found that seven (3.4 percent) sequenced genomes contained similar abnormal reading coverage profiles that suggested putative large genomic deletions or rearrangements," says the research, which cannot yet be taken as conclusive, as it is under review. . Although these findings are not in themselves a state of emergency or alarm, they do invite the medical community to monitor outbreaks of the virus more closely and continue studying to understand what implications these mutations could have. Indeed, one of the researchers' conclusions is that "the occurrence of genomic rearrangements during the outbreak may have public health implications and highlight the importance of continued genomic surveillance."

Despite the fact that this is a disease that had already been present in Africa for decades, in countries such as the Republic of Congo, there were no tremendous scientific advances in understanding its genome. However, with the global outbreak, every day there is more collaboration among the scientific community to understand this virus. These collected data and research have made it possible to get closer to understanding the current emergency. "The strain responsible for the global outbreak jumped from animals to humans in early 2016. That's more than a year and a half before the strain was first detected in humans by Nigerian health officials, who declared an outbreak in your country that has never completely ended," says an article in the journal Nature.

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Animals can also get monkeypox

The first cases of domestic dogs contracting the virus were reported in August, one in France and one in Brazil. According to the CDC "Monkeypox virus can infect a wide range of mammalian species, including monkeys, anteaters, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, squirrels, shrews, and dogs." The medical journal The Lancet published an article with information on the transmission of the virus from humans to dogs. Human-to-human transmission of the monkeypox virus generally occurs through close contact with lesions, body fluids, and respiratory droplets from infected people or animals.

For this reason, the recommendation for infected people who live with pets is to keep them isolated to avoid infecting them with the disease. Likewise, it is essential that veterinarians obtain information from specialized guides on how to act in the event of detecting an animal carrying the virus.

However, according to the journal Nature, the scientific community is concerned that this disease could spread to rats or wild animals in countries where it is not endemic since several wild animals are known to carry the virus in Africa. if this were to happen, animals from other areas could become reservoirs of the virus and mutate. This could be dangerous because it could trigger another series of behaviors in the virus. For this reason, it is essential that viruses between humans are controlled and infected people are responsible for self-care, treatment, and vaccination measures.

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