Monkeypox: Study finds virus mutating 12 times quicker than expected

  • 26/06/2022

Monkeypox is mutating in a way that's faster than first thought, according to scientists studying the virus.

Research conducted in Portugal found 50 mutations in the virus from samples gathered this year compared to samples collected in 2018 and 2019.

That number of mutations could mean the virus is undergoing "accelerated evolution", the scientists said.

"The observed accelerated evolution… suggests that viral genome sequencing might provide sufficient resolution to track the transmission dynamics and outbreak spread," said the study, published in the Nature Medicine journal

According to the study, the mutations appeared to be 12 times faster than they anticipated.

"Our data reveals additional clues of ongoing viral evolution and potential human adaptation," the researchers noted.

Monkeypox, which is spreading around the world, could soon be labelled a public health emergency of concern - with the World Health Organization (WHO) convening to discuss the matter. 

The virus is spread through close contact. So far, the outbreak has primarily affected gay and bisexual men - but anyone can get it.

But Arindam Basu, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Canterbury, said there was no need to be overly worried about monkeypox.

"It's slowly spreading but it is spreading, and it's quite rightly that the WHO is concerned that it needs to be contained," he told Newshub on Friday.

"We have to be watchful of it but there is absolutely no need to press the panic button."

Populations have become more susceptible to monkeypox as a result of the termination of routine smallpox vaccination, which offered some cross-protection in the past.