Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Monkeypox Virus: Origins and Outbreaks

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Monkey Pox

Mains level : Rise in zoonotic diseases

With cases being reported from across the world, monkeypox has caught everyone’s attention.

What is Monkeypox?

  • Monkeypox is not a new virus.
  • The virus, belonging to the poxvirus family of viruses, was first identified in monkeys way back in 1958, and therefore the name.
  • The first human case was described in 1970 from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Many sporadic outbreaks of animal to human as well as human to human transmission has occurred in Central and West Africa in the past with significant mortality.
  • After the elimination of smallpox, monkeypox has become one of the dominant poxviruses in humans, with cases increasing over years along with a consequent reduction in the age-group affected.

How is it transmitted?

  • Since the transmission occurs only with close contact, the outbreaks have been in many cases self-limiting.
  • Since in the majority of affected people, the incubation period ranges from five to 21 days and is often mild or self-limiting, asymptomatic cases could transmit the disease unknowingly.
  • The outbreaks in Central Africa are thought to have been contributed by close contact with animals in regions adjoining forests.
  • While monkeys are possibly only incidental hosts, the reservoir is not known.
  • It is believed that rodents and non-human primates could be potential reservoirs.

Does the virus mutate?

  • Monkeypox virus is a DNA virus with a quite large genome of around 2,00,000 nucleotide bases.
  • While being a DNA virus, the rate of mutations in the monkeypox virus is significantly lower (~1-2 mutations per year) compared to RNA viruses like SARS-CoV-2.
  • The low rate of mutation therefore limits the wide application of genomic surveillance in providing detailed clues to the networks of transmission for monkeypox.
  • A number of genome sequences in recent years from Africa and across the world suggest that there are two distinct clades of the virus — the Congo Basin/Central African clade and the West African clade.
  • Each of the clades further have many lineages.

What do the genomes say?

  • With over a dozen genome sequences of monkeypox, it is reassuring that the sequences are quite identical to each other suggesting that only a few introductions resulted in the present spread of cases.
  • Additionally, almost all genomes have come from the West African clade, which has much lesser fatality compared to the Central African one.
  • This also roughly corroborates with the epidemiological understanding that major congregations in the recent past contributed to the widespread transmission across different countries.

Does it have an effective vaccine?

  • It is reassuring that we know quite a lot more about the virus and its transmission patterns.
  • We also have effective ways of preventing the spread, including a vaccine.
  • Smallpox/vaccinia vaccine provides protection.
  • While the vaccine has been discontinued in 1980 following the eradication of smallpox, emergency stockpiles of the vaccines are maintained by many countries.
  • Younger individuals are unlikely to have received the vaccine and are therefore potentially susceptible to monkeypox which could partly explain its emergence in younger individuals.

 

UPSC 2023 countdown has begun! Get your personal guidance plan now! (Click here)

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments