Jun 28, 2022

Monkeypox found to be evolving at a faster rate than expected

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

A team of researchers at the National Institute of Health Doutor Ricardo Jorge in Portugal, working with a colleague at Lusófona University, also in Portugal, has found that the monkeypox virus has been evolving at a faster rate than expected. In their paper published in the journal Nature Medicine, the researchers describe their genetic study of the virus collected from 15 samples.

Monkeypox is a double-stranded DNA virus from the same genus as smallpox, and it mostly infects people in Africa. Scientist have known of its existence since the 1950s. Despite its name, the virus is more commonly found in rodents than monkeys. Prior research has shown that there are two main varieties of monkeypox: West African and Congo Basin—the former is far less deadly and is the clade that has infected several thousand people outside Africa. Prior research has also shown that viruses like monkeypox typically only mutate once or twice in a given year.

In this new effort, the researchers collected samples from 15 patients and subjected them to to learn more about how quickly the virus is evolving. They found the virus has mutated at a rate six to 12 times as high as was expected. The researchers suggest the sudden accelerated rate of mutation in the virus may be a sign that the virus has developed a new way to infect people—currently, it is believed to move from person to person through close contact with open lesions, through body fluids or by airborne droplets.

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