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Could monkeypox mutate? Why the virus could change, as Covid explained

Spread primarily by wildlife in parts of west or central Africa, monkeypox can be caught by infected wildlife

Numerous human cases of monkeypox have been detected in the UK since May 7, with the virus – usually restricted to Africa – also being confirmed in a number of other countries around the world.

Given that we’ve only just scrapped the last remaining Covid rules, it’s no surprise that many of us are wondering if the monkeypox outbreak could lead us into yet another lockdown.

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Numerous human cases of monkeypox have been detected in the UK since 7 May

Although monkeypox has previously been described as relatively mild, one of the most worrying aspects of Covid has been the virus’ ability to mutate and cause more severe symptoms. From Delta to Omicron, we’ve seen a range of variants, some worse than others, and each comes with its own blocking rules.

So could the same thing happen with monkeypox? You need to know.

Could monkeypox mutate?

Martin Michaelis, a professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kent, said monkeypox is a DNA virus whose genome has historically been fairly stable.

In comparison, SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, is an RNA virus that has a very high mutation rate and can evolve very quickly, with the risk of mutation in monkeypox being “substantially lower” than in Covid . explained Prof. Michaelis.

However, he added that mutations still occur in monkeypox, and even a few or just one mutation can alter a virus’ properties.

“This would be of particular concern if we had continued human-to-human spread, which would give the monkeypox virus an opportunity to better adapt to humans,” Prof Michaelis said.

This is echoed by Hussain Abdeh, clinical director and chief pharmacist at Medicine Direct, who said viruses are “constantly mutating,” which they must do “to survive.”

He said that as a result of the virus evolving to combat the various vaccines being developed to combat the pandemic, we have seen several different variants of Covid, so it’s possible monkeypox could also mutate.

But he added that monkeypox is a “far better understood virus” than Covid and there is already a lot of research making it easier to treat.

Could monkeypox be transmitted to other mammals?

Spread primarily by wildlife in parts of west or central Africa, monkeypox can be caught by infected wildlife. It is believed to be spread by rodents such as rats, mice, and squirrels.

The virus is currently spreading between people both in the UK and other countries outside of its usual African base due to a recent outbreak, but Prof Michaelis said another concern was that the monkeypox virus could be introduced into animal reservoirs in places where it was infected which it is not currently endemic.

He said in Africa the main reservoirs of monkeypox are likely to be various rodents such as Gambian opossums, dormouse and African squirrels, but rodent species in other countries, including domesticated species, are “likely also susceptible to this virus”.

In 2003, for example, there was an outbreak of monkeypox in the United States caused by prairie dogs kept with imported Gambian opossums infected with the monkeypox virus.

Prof Michaelis said that consequently ‘we could turn monkeypox into a disease that is endemic in animals in many more parts of the world and not just in the regions of central and west Africa where it is normally found’.

“If this were to happen in the UK, it would likely lead to more cases in humans here and the risk of more dangerous variants developing,” he added.

For those wondering if pets could get monkeypox, Mr Abdeh said although no cases of monkeypox in pets have been reported so far, scientists said it was “theoretically possible”.

https://www.nationalworld.com/health/could-monkeypox-mutate-why-virus-could-change-like-covid-and-what-happens-if-it-spreads-to-animals-3710747 Could monkeypox mutate? Why the virus could change, as Covid explained

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