The World Health Organization (WHO) told AFP on Wednesday that studies are underway to determine whether genetic changes in the monkeypox virus are behind the rapid spread of the disease.
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The two groups, or distinct forms, of the virus were called groups in the Congo Basin (Central Africa) and West Africa, after the two regions where they are endemic. On Friday, the WHO named these groups as Clade I and Clade II, respectively, to avoid any risk of geographic stigma.
She also announced that Clade II has two subclasses, IIa and IIb, with the latter virus being identified as the source of the current global pandemic.
On Wednesday, the WHO clarified that clades IIa and IIb are related and share a recent common ancestor – so IIb is not a branch of IIa.
“Looking at the genome, there are actually some genetic differences between the virus in the current outbreak and the older clade IIb virus,” the WHO told AFP. “However, nothing is known about the significance of these genetic changes, and research is ongoing to establish the effects (if any) of these mutations on disease transmission and severity.”
“It is still too early, in both epidemiological and laboratory studies, to say whether the increase in infection may be due to genome changes observed in the virus, or if it is due to host (human) related factors,” WHO said. according.
An increase in monkeypox virus infections has been reported outside endemic African countries since early May. The WHO declared an international public health emergency on 23 July.
More than 35,000 cases and 12 deaths have been reported to WHO in 92 countries. Almost all new cases have been reported in Europe and America.
The WHO has warned that its campaign to rename monkeypox could take “many months”. For weeks, the organization has been concerned about the name, with experts believing it to be misleading.
Monkeypox got its name because the virus was first identified in 1958 in monkeys raised for research in Denmark.
However, the disease often appears in rodents, and current epidemics are spread through human-to-human contact.
WHO sought the public’s help in finding a new name and setting up a website to collect suggestions.