According to a study, which was published in the medical journal Nature Medicine on Thursday, there were an average of 50 mutations of the monkeypox virus in samples from this year when only up to 10 would typically be expected. That’s “unprecedented” and much quicker than the “experts” thought.
In the study, a group of Portuguese researchers analyzed the first monkeypox sequence publicly released on May 20, along with 14 additional sequences released before May 27 of this year. Researchers discovered around 50 genetic variations in the viruses, a figure six to twelve times higher than previous studies of other orthopoxviruses, a family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs.
The study said that the mutation rate may suggest a case of “accelerated evolution,” according to a report on the study done by the New York Post. “Considering that this 2022 monkeypox virus is likely a descendant of the one in the 2017 Nigeria outbreak, one would expect no more than five to 10 additional mutations instead of the observed about 50 mutations,” he told Newsweek.
There are currently more than 3,500 cases of the virus in 44 countries globally. This outbreak has spread to parts of the world where monkeypox is not usually endemic, causing “concern” that transmissibility has increased. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also claimed there were now cases among family members and those in close contact with someone who has monkeypox.
The Biden Administration announced earlier this week that tests for the virus will be shipped to commercial laboratories in a scramble to expand testing and speed up diagnoses as confirmed cases nationwide hit 173 as of Friday, according to the CDC.
Monkeypox can infect anyone but a number of the cases in the US and Europe have been found in gay men, leading health officials to push to raise awareness in the community even as tests remain scarce and only people who meet strict criteria like having lesions can even get tested.