MUMBAI: The monkeypox cases detected in Kerala cannot be linked to the super-spreader event in Spain, which triggered a worldwide outbreak, according to scientists in the country. Genomic sequencing of samples from India’s first two monkeypox cases has revealed the A.2 strain of the virus, while the European outbreak is caused by the B.1 lineage.
In an analytical note, scientists from CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi called it a “curious case” of the Indian monkeypox genome. IGIB’s Dr. Vinod Scaria And his team has also made another observation: Monkeypox has probably been around for a long time. “We are looking at a distinct set of human-human transmissions and are probably unrecognized for years,” Dr Scaria said.
In a Twitter thread, Dr Scaria explained that the A.2 strain found in patients from Kerala is more commonly seen in the US (Florida, Texas and Virginia) and Thailand. “The earliest sample in the cluster from the Americas is actually from 2021, suggesting that the virus has been in circulation for a long time, and prior to European events,” he said.
There are four confirmed cases of monkeypox in India – three patients in Kerala with a history of international travel and one in New Delhi with no such history. Several suspects have been found in other states, but they have tested negative so far. Meanwhile, concurring with Dr Scaria’s analysis, other national experts said that monkeypox in India has probably been undetected for years.
In the past two months, with eight deaths, the number of monkeypox cases worldwide has risen to nearly 19,000. The outbreak was detected at a rave party in Madrid and has since spread to 78 countries.
About a week ago, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a health emergency. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a few days ago that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally but higher in Europe. However, more than 90% of the world’s detections are from the US. Incidentally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated in June that at least two separate monkeypox outbreaks were underway outside Africa.
Experts in India say that monkeypox has not been detected in the country. Dr Jacob John, Professor, Department of Community Health at CMC, Vellore, said, “Monkeypox has not been a serious condition so far, and while cases have probably been reported in India as well, they are not major.” Dr John said the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the same variola family of viruses that causes the dreaded smallpox, has not been highly transmitted so far.
Dr Narges Mistry, director of the Foundation for Medical Research in Mumbai, said it is not strange to consider that there may be cases of monkeypox in India. “There can be different strains of the same virus with different transmission in different places,” she said.