The monkeypox virus seems to be mutating much faster than scientists have ever expected.
This and more has been made apparent in a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine not too long ago.
As part of this research, Portuguese scientists collected 15 monkeypox sequences and managed to reconstruct their genetic data.
While this virus, which is part of the same family as smallpox, is usually localized within West and Central Africa, it has managed to spread more than ever within a greater number of countries this year, causing a lot of concern.
As of Thursday, over 3,500 cases have been reported by the CDC.
With so much more transmission than normal, the outbreak comes with uncertainty as far as how exactly the virus is spreading is concerned.
Furthermore, in the newest study, researchers found about 50 genetic variations of the virus which is “far more than one would expect considering previous estimates.”
They also stressed that this might mean “accelerated evolution” for the virus.
The team wrote that “Our data reveals additional clues of ongoing viral evolution and potential human adaptation.”
They also went on to mention that they have found proteins able to interact with humans’ immune systems.
Regardless, it seems that more studies are needed in order to find out more about the role they might play in adapting monkeypox for rapid human spread.
The Head of the Genomics and Bioinformatics Unit at the National Institute of Health in Portugal, João Paulo Gomes, who is also the co-author of the new study, explained that it’s still unclear whether or not the mutations are what have led to an increase in transmissibility among people.
“We just know that these additional 50 mutations were quite unexpected. Considering this 2022 monkeypox virus is most likely a descendant of the one back in the 2017 Nigeria outbreak, one would only expect no more than 5 to 10 additional mutations instead of the observed 50 plus mutations. We hope that now, specialized groups will perform laboratory experiments in order to really understand if this 2022 virus has increased its transmissibility,” the expert shared.