Monkeypox. The circulating virus belongs to the least aggressive strain

Microbiologist João Paulo Gomes said on Tuesday that the Monkeypox virus circulating in several countries, including Portugal, where it is not endemic, belongs to a less aggressive lineage originating from West Africa.

“It is the least severe form of the virus,” said researcher at the National Institute of Health Doutor Ricardo Jorge (Insa) in Lusa, Lisbon, where the team he leads sequenced the genome of the virus. Monkeypox at the root of the recent outbreak, making Portugal the first country to do so.

João Paulo Gomes, head of the genomics and bioinformatics core at the Insagent’s disease department, where the work was carried out, added that the virus currently circulating in countries where it is not endemic belongs to the lineage virus circulating in West Africa, where it is endemic. , but less aggressive.

There is a second line of Monkeypox, originating in Central Africa, where it is also endemic, which is more aggressive.

According to Insa experts, who have already sequenced the Monkeypox genome of 10 infected people, the outbreak virus detected this month “is most closely related to viruses associated with the export of Monkeypox virus from Nigeria. to several countries in 2018 and 2019, namely the United States United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore”.

João Paulo Gomes said that “it is potentially a single introduction” of the virus, imported, “which created chains of transmission which then spread to several countries”.

The researcher pointed out that the virus causing the current epidemic “appeared very recently”, but “evolves” rapidly, “accumulating genetic mutations”, while, due to “inherent characteristics”, the Monkeypox ” is a virus that typically has a lower mutation rate.”

“In theory, it is changing more than expected. Eventually we will be able to realize that these genomic characteristics can be associated with greater transmissibility, we still do not know”, he underlined, pointing to genomic sequencing as a “fundamental tool to support public health decision-making”.

According to João Paulo Gomes, “it is important that all countries sequence, release the genetic sequences” of the virus and “do public sharing” of the data “so that the story of this epidemic can be built quickly, understand the country of origin , understand where it was introduced [o vírus] in Europe and in the rest of the world and what has been the chronology in terms of distribution in the different countries”.

The microbiologist considers that “there is no need to worry”, but “above all, a reason to act, to block the chains of transmission, to carry out strong surveillance and to quickly rule out all cases suspects”.

“There is no doubt that over the next few weeks we will see a very aggressive evolution of this situation, but the characteristics of the transmission of the virus do not suggest that its containment will be very difficult,” he said. argued, recalling that “the direct, very close contact” for transmission to occur between people.

Ana Pelerito, a technician in the Emergency Response and Biopreparedness Unit of Insagent’s Infectious Diseases Department, explained that the methodology used in the lab made it possible to quickly detect the Monkeypox virus in three to four hours. suspect samples, allowing colleagues at the Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics to sequence their genome.

“Without our work, we wouldn’t be able to be the first country to do this sequencing,” he told Lusa.

The first genetic sequence of the virus was obtained at Insa from a sample taken on May 4 from skin lesions of a sick man.

Monkeypox, the genus of the virus that causes smallpox, is transmitted from person to person through close contact with wounds, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials.

The incubation time is usually seven to 14 days and the disease, known as monkeypox, lasts an average of two to four weeks.

The General Directorate of Health (DGS) recommends that people with ulcerative lesions, rashes, palpable lymph nodes, possibly accompanied by fever, chills, headache, muscle pain and fatigue, consult a doctor .

In Portugal, according to the latest data from the DGS, 39 cases have been confirmed, all men between the ages of 27 and 61, most of whom are under 40 and therefore not vaccinated against smallpox, an eradicated disease. the world in 1980.

The smallpox vaccine, along with antivirals and immunoglobulin “vaccinia” (VIG), can be used for the prevention and treatment of Monkeypox, a rare disease.

Outside Europe, the virus has already been detected, notably in the United States, Israel, Canada and Australia.

The disease, which is named after the virus, was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, after the virus was detected in 1958 following two outbreaks of a disease similar to smallpox occurring in colonies of monkeys kept in captivity during investigation – hence the name “Monkeypox” (“monkey” means monkey and “pox” means smallpox).

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