Retrospective UK study offers insight into monkeypox

Following the recent spate of monkeypox cases across Europe and North America, The Lancet has published insights from a study of seven UK monkeypox cases between 2018 and 2021.

monkeypox study

The retrospective study aimed to garner greater insight into infection control and treatment strategies for the rare disease, which is a relative of the smallpox virus and classified as a High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID) by the UK Health Security Agency

Seven UK monkeypox cases were analysed, being the first in-hospital transmission and household transmission cases outside of Africa.

Patients were administered two different antiviral medications – brincidofovir and tecovirimat – finding that brincidofovir had little clinical benefit, and concluding that further research into the potential of tecovirimat to shorten the duration of symptoms is warranted.

In light of the recent global incidences of monkeypox, data sharing of this nature could potentially help inform global efforts to further understand the clinical features and transmission dynamics of the disease.

Commenting on their study’s contribution to the current global disease status, Dr Hugh Adler of the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and lead author on the study paper, commented: “As public health officials are trying to understand what is causing the May 2022 monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America – which have affected several patients who reported neither travel nor an identified link to a previously known case – our study offers some of the first insights into the use of antivirals for the treatment of monkeypox in humans.

“Although this latest outbreak has affected more patients than we had previously encountered in the UK, historically monkeypox has not transmitted very efficiently between people, and overall the risk to public health is low.”

Nick Price of Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and senior author on the paper, reflected on the importance of communicating insights for this evolving disease: “The cases reported in our study, in addition to the recent outbreaks, highlight the importance of maintaining a collaborative network of centres on standby to manage sporadic outbreaks of high consequence pathogens, such as monkeypox. The cases we observed were challenging and resource-intensive to manage, even in the high-income setting of the UK. With international travel returning to pre-pandemic levels, public health officials and healthcare workers around the world must remain vigilant to the possibility of new cases of monkeypox.”