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Researchers develop new testing methods for potential monkeypox or smallpox outbreak

Researchers at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) at Oregon Health & Science University have developed new diagnostic methods to better detect future monkeypox or smallpox outbreaks. The research also sheds new light on the 2003 monkeypox outbreak in the Midwest -- monkeypox is closely related to smallpox. This new information suggests that the 2003 outbreak was larger than the 72 cases reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The research was released online this week by the medical journal Nature Medicine. The study will also appear in the September 2005 print edition of the journal.

"The 2003 outbreak of monkeypox provided some incredibly valuable information about the country's level of preparedness for an infectious disease outbreak that is either naturally occurring or an act of terrorism," said Mark Slifka, Ph.D., lead author and an assistant scientist at the VGTI, an assistant professor of molecular microbiology and immunology in the OHSU School of Medicine and an assistant scientist at the Oregon National Primate Research Center. "Our research demonstrates that the limitations of currently used technology likely allowed monkeypox cases to slip through the system. This problem was further exacerbated by the two-week delay that occurred during the diagnosis of the first monkeypox cases. If the 2003 outbreak had been smallpox instead of monkeypox, the situation could have been much worse because secondary spread of the virus to other victims would likely have occurred before the outbreak was recognized."

To conduct this research, Slifka and colleagues traveled to Wisconsin to test those who had been exposed to monkeypox in 2003. Although 72 potential cases were reported at that time, only about half of the cases have been officially confirmed. Directly following the outbreak, the CDC released a report that focused on 11 of the 72 cases. Of those 11, six cases were confirmed and the remaining five cases rem
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Source:Oregon Health & Science University


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