Monkeypox Has Undergone 'Accelerated Evolution'
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The monkeypox virus could be mutating at a rate faster than scientists predicted, according to new research.
Officially declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), monkeypox has spread to more than 70 countries in what is being termed an 'extraordinary event' by experts.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, warned of a 'clear risk of further international spread' which would need a global coordinated response.
The first European death from monkeypox was confirmed recently in Spain, with the Spanish health ministry confirming thousands of cases where people had been infected with the virus.
As part of new research by Nature Medicine, scientists looked at the DNA strain of the current monkeypox virus and found it bore close relation to a strain behind a 2018-19 outbreak in Nigeria.
Thousands of cases have been reported in Europe and North America, whereas the monkeypox virus is normally endemic in Western and Central Africa.
Scientists found that the virus mutated 50 times since the 2018-19 outbreak, and this mutation could help explain why the virus is spreading in parts of the world where it should be struggling more.
Dr Hugh Adler of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine commented on the study of monkeypox undergoing an accelerated evolution.
He said: "We are seeing fascinating insights into the biology of monkeypox now that it has caused an outbreak in high income countries.
"But as ever, if the global community had applied these same scientific resources to monkeypox outbreaks in Africa, we might already have a stronger knowledge base."
Dr Adler went on to say that through the virus mutations there didn't appear to be a 'change in the severity of the clinical disease', so even if it's getting more transmissible that doesn't mean it's becoming more deadly to each person.
According to the WHO, monkeypox symptoms last for between two and four weeks, though more severe cases can occur.
It says the fatality rate for monkeypox is between three and six percent, while the disease gets transmitted from person to person through close contact with the lesions which appear after infection.
People can also catch monkeypox from an infected person's bodily fluids or from touching materials they've been in contact with such as bedsheets.
Vaccines which work against smallpox also provide some protection against monkeypox, while there is also a newer approved vaccine that provides protection against the virus.
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