Monkeypox turned out to be evolving faster than expected

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A team of researchers from the National Institute of Health Doutor Ricardo Jorge in Portugal, in collaboration with a colleague at Lusófona University, also in Portugal, has found that the monkeypox virus is developing faster than expected. In their article published in the magazine naturopathythe researchers describe their genetic study of the virus collected from 15 samples.

Monkeypox is a double-stranded DNA virus of the same genus as smallpox, and it mainly infects humans in Africa. Scientists have known about its existence since the 1950s. Despite its name, the virus is more common in rodents than monkeys. Prior research has shown that there are two main varieties of monkeypox: West African and Congo Basin – the former is much less lethal and is the clade that has infected several thousand people outside of Africa. Previous research has also shown that viruses such as monkey pox typically mutate only once or twice a year.

In this new effort, the researchers collected samples from 15 patients and subjected them to genetic analysis to learn more about how quickly the virus is evolving. They found that the virus has mutated six to 12 times higher than expected. The researchers suggest that the virus’s sudden accelerated mutation rate may be a sign that the virus has evolved a new way to infect humans — it is currently believed to pass from person to person through close contact with open lesions, through bodily fluids or through droplets. in the air.

Studying the mutations, the researchers found signs that some of the mutations may have resulted from exposure to the human immune system, especially enzymes of a type called APOBEC3 — they kill viruses by fueling errors while copying. genetic code. If some viruses survived such an attack and passed on their genes, they would have given future generations an edge against the human immune system. And that could explain why the virus is mutating faster than expected. The researchers also note that the virus may be circulating at low levels in human communities or spreading among animals in other countries. They also note that the accelerated rate of evolution could be a response to the crackdown that followed during the monkeypox outbreak in 2017.


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More information:
Joana Isidro et al, Phylogenomic characterization and signs of microevolution in multi-country monkeypox virus outbreak in 2022, naturopathy (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41591-022-01907-y

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