Rename monkeypox to remove geographic stigma, researchers say Science

The name “hMPXV A.1” may not have come out of the tongue, but a major international team of researchers says something similar should replace the monkey naming system and its strains called the West African and Congo Basin.

“In the context of the current global outbreak, the virus’s constant reference and nomenclature for being African is not only correct, it is also discriminatory and stigmatizing,” 29 authors from 11 countries wrote in a pre-press release published today on . They also warned that the strain now circulating in people outside Africa is likely to be differentiated from the animal virus, and that they are “demanding a quick decision and a new name.”

The call echoes previous discussions about the names of other diseases and pathogens, including a new one that led to the current nomenclature of SARS-CoV-2 variants, replacing Greek letters with geographical names such as Wuhan or South African strains. Also, the authors of the preprint want a “practical and neutral nomenclature system” used for monkey herds.

“He’s very, very happy to see this,” tweeted Neil Stone, an infectious disease specialist at University College London Hospitals, in response to the pre-print.

The current monkey outbreak, the first to occur on many continents outside Africa, has spread to more than 1,500 people in 47 countries. A few years ago, researchers distributed monkeypox viruses in “clades” or branches in the West African and Congo basins, which have a unique genomic signature and cause diseases of varying severity. The viruses sequenced in the current occurrence usually coincide with the milder clades of West Africa.

But some researchers say that human strains now seen around the world form a third clade, and that these viruses may also have different transmission characteristics. “It’s very clear that this virus is related in a very different way,” says Tulio de Oliveira, an evolutionary biologist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who is the latest author of the prepress.

Monkey outbreaks typically occur in Africa when the virus is transmitted from animal species (mostly rodents, not monkeys), infecting each other, and acting as a repository for the pathogen. But no link to animals has been found in the current outbreak, and the first patients emerged in Europe, where growing evidence suggests that the virus has been transmitted to humans without being detected for many months. “There was a great adaptation of the human host. The real source of this appearance is mostly Europe and then it went into all the other places in the world, ”says Oliveira.

Oliveira and colleagues suggest a preprinted human ape stingray (hMPXV) as a placeholder with numbers indicating clades: 1 was the first to be detected in the Congo Basin, 2 for West Africa, and 3 for current strains, which may be inappropriate. It was named the “Euro” clade. Lineages within a clade can use the alphabet, as SARS-CoV-2 does with Omicron BA.5. The group has already discussed its ideas with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Committee on Viral Taxonomy (ICTV).

The geographical designation of viruses and diseases has had negative consequences. The SARS-CoV-2 variant was first described by Oliveira and her colleagues as the so-called South African strain, which led to travel bans; WHO then named it Beta. Locals who are afraid of negative reactions have a pathogen that bears their name “they may have information when they find a new virus,” he added.

Although recommended by the WHO in 2015 against geography-based names, many of the viruses on ICTV’s List of Major Species still exist — Ebola, named after a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, commonly distributed in the Sudan and Zaire strains — and Oliveira. he says it’s time to rethink all of them. “Most of them were doing parachute colonialism research, and those who went somewhere called it, ‘Oh, I see that, I’ll call the virus whatever I want,'” he says. “People used to do that in the past. Is this the right way to go about it? I do not think so”.

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