01/6​ Mutations in monkeypox virus
Monkeypox is a viral disease which the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared as a global health emergency. The total number of cases in the global monkeypox outbreak has now surpassed 70,000.

In a new research, experts note that the monkeypox virus is getting ‘smarter’, in the sense that specific mutations are aiding the virus to avoid being targeted by medicines as well as a body’s immune response. This is helping the virus to remain contagious.

The findings of the study, published in the Journal of Autoimmunity, can contribute to a better understanding of existing drugs used to treat monkeypox and can also help in development of new medicines that can counter these mutations.

02/6​ The virus is getting ‘smarter’
“By doing a temporal analysis, we were able to see how the virus has evolved over time. A key finding was that the virus is now accumulating mutations specifically where drugs and antibodies from vaccines are supposed to bind,” researcher Shrikesh Sachdev said, as reported by PTI.

“So, the virus is getting smarter. It is able to avoid being targeted by drugs or antibodies from our body’s immune response and continue to spread to more people,” he added.

03/6​ About the study
For the study, the team analysed the DNA sequences of more than 200 strains of the monkeypox virus spanning multiple decades. The time period accounted for started from 1965 when monkeypox first started spreading, then went to the outbreaks in the early 2000s and finally the most recent outbreak in 2022.

The analysis involved examination of five specific proteins while analyzing the monkeypox virus strains, this includes – DNA polymerase, DNA helicase, bridging protein A22R, DNA glycosylase and G9R.

04/6​ Understanding the virus’ increased infectivity
“When they sent me the data, I saw that the mutations were occurring at critical points impacting DNA genome binding, as well as where drugs and vaccine-induced antibodies are supposed to bind,” lead researcher Kamlendra Singh said.

“These factors are surely contributing to the virus’ increased infectivity. This work is important because the first step toward solving a problem is identifying where the problem is specifically occurring. It is a team effort,” he added.

05/6​ About the recent monkeypox outbreak
Monkeypox suddenly started spreading across the world in May 2022. The cases started emerging in the United Kingdom, Portugal, and Italy, mostly involving men who have sex with men. Within months, more than 73,000 cases and 29 deaths have been recorded in over 100 countries.

According to the World Health Organisation, the number of new global cases have dipped significantly in recent weeks.

06/6​ Monkeypox cases in India
India’s confirmed monkeypox cases now stand at 19. According to ICMR researchers, the first case was a 35-year-old male engineer, resident of UAE, who had developed a low-grade fever and myalgia (muscle aches and pain) on July 5, 2022. The next day, he developed multiple vesicular rashes in the oral cavity and lips. This was followed by a single lesion on the genital organ.

Since the detection of monkeypox in India, the Health Ministry has taken measures such as screening of all symptomatic contacts of the infected person, adherence to personal protective equipment and hand hygiene, hospital infection control practices and education of the infection in the community.