UK scientists given £2m to tackle global monkeypox outbreak

Current outbreak has spread to 106 countries and territories, with 25 confirmed deaths

A new consortium will research, among other things, the effectiveness of monkeypox vaccines. Reuters
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A newly created research consortium has been given £2 million ($2.2m) to help tackle the global monkeypox outbreak.

The consortium of 25 researchers from 12 institutions will study the virus, look into the effectiveness of the smallpox vaccine that is being used to protect against monkeypox, and develop tests to identify and manage the disease.

“The implications of the current monkeypox outbreak are huge," said Prof Bryan Charleston, co-leader from the Pirbright Institute, which is a member of the consortium.

“As well as tackling the current outbreak, we also need to be fully prepared for the next outbreak, because worldwide there’s a huge reservoir of infection.

“One of the key ways we can do this is to develop rapid tests, which are very important to help clinicians on the front line to manage the disease.”

Led by the institute and the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research, the consortium will also screen possible drugs and determine which ones could be used for further testing.

The experts will look at identifying animal carriers and possible spill-over routes of transmission between animals and humans.

To see how effective the smallpox vaccine is in preventing or reducing the severity of monkeypox, the researchers will track immune responses after primary and secondary vaccination.

Monkeypox cases identified - in pictures

“Monkeypox is a public health challenge, so taking decisive, collective action to better understand this virus is paramount," said Prof Massimo Palmarini, co-leader from the MRC-University of Glasgow centre.

“By bringing together research expertise in different areas, we will harness the UK’s world-leading knowledge to learn more about how the virus works and spreads, and provide the foundations for the development of potential new treatments.”

Monkeypox vaccination - in pictures

There have been more than 3,500 confirmed cases of monkeypox since May, although new case numbers are falling.

According to the World Health Organisation, the virus has spread to 106 countries and territories with 25 confirmed deaths.

The monkeypox virus outbreak originated in West Africa and cases outside that area were first identified in May 2022.

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Updated: October 19, 2022, 11:34 PM