The World Health Organization told AFP on Wednesday that studies are underway to determine whether genetic mutations in the monkeypox virus are behind the rapid spread of the disease.
• Read also: WHO renames monkeypox variants
Both types, or distinct variants, of the virus are named after the Congo Basin (Central Africa) and West Africa, after the two regions where they are endemic. On Friday, the World Health Organization renamed these two groups Clade I and Clade II respectively, to avoid any risk of geographical stigma.
It also announced that clade 2 contains two subtypes, IIa and IIb, with viruses from the latter identified as the source of the current global pandemic.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization clarified that clades IIa and IIb are related and share a recent common ancestor—and thus IIb is not a branch of IIa.
“Looking at the genome, there are actually some genetic differences between the viruses in the current outbreak and older clade IIb viruses,” the WHO told AFP. “However, nothing is known about the significance of these genetic changes, and research is ongoing to determine the effects (if any) of these mutations on disease transmission and severity.”
“It is still too early, both in an epidemic and in laboratory studies, to determine whether the increase in infection could be due to the genetic changes observed in the virus, or if it is caused by factors related to the (human) host,” according to the World Health Organization. .
An increase in monkeypox virus cases has been reported since early May outside endemic African countries. The World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency on July 23.
More than 35,000 cases in 92 countries and 12 deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization. Almost all new cases have been reported in Europe and the Americas.
The World Health Organization has warned that its campaign to rename monkeypox could take “several months”. For weeks, the organization has been concerned about the name, which experts believe is misleading.
Monkeypox is so named because the virus was first identified in monkeys bred for research in Denmark in 1958.
However, the disease occurs most commonly in rodents, and the current outbreak is spread through human-to-human contact.
The World Health Organization asked the public to help find a new name and create a website to collect suggestions.
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