NIH experts examine the challenges of monkeypox
Thursday, August 25, 2022
Lessons learned from public health responses to the HIV and COVID-19 pandemics should help guide the response to the current monkeypox epidemic, write experts from the National Institutes of Health in an editorial published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and H. Clifford Lane, MD, NIAID associate director for clinical research and special projects, discuss a series of published cases (JP Thornhill et al.) detailing the symptoms and outcomes of 528 people with monkeypox from 16 countries on five continents.
The authors note that the epidemiological pattern of the multicontinental monkeypox epidemic resembles that of early AIDS cases in that most cases are in men who have sex with men. They caution, however, that it should not be assumed that monkeypox cases will remain confined to this population. The monkeypox virus is known to be spread by direct contact from the lesion to the skin – in previous outbreaks such spread was often from an infected child to a caregiver. The data suggests that sexual transmission likely plays a role in the current epidemic, the authors note. They call for detailed observational studies, serological surveys and continued surveillance to learn more about the epidemiology of the current outbreak.
Drs. Fauci and Lane also compare monkeypox, HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 regarding the causes of each disease and the countermeasures available to combat them. Fortunately, diagnostics, vaccines and treatments for monkeypox already exist. A challenge for the public health and research communities is to ensure equitable and effective distribution of these existing countermeasures while simultaneously conducting rigorous clinical research to gather more data on their safety and optimal use, conclude -they.
HC Lane and AS Fauci. Monkeypox – Passed as a prologue. The New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMe2210535 (2022).
J.-P. Thornhill et al. Monkeypox virus infection in humans in 16 countries – April-June 2022. The New England Journal of Medicine DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2207323 (2022)
Dr. Fauci and Dr. Lane are available for comment.
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