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Media opportunity: Dalhousie University researchers and an international team identify new strain of mpox virus in Africa that can spread through heterosexual sex and community contact

Posted by Communications and Marketing on May 13, 2024 in News

Dalhousie University infectious disease specialists and scientists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have completed the genomic sequencing and mutational mapping of a new, more transmissible strain of the mpox virus that is spreading through parts of the central African country.

This information is key to understanding the transmission dynamics and protein targets necessary for vaccine and antiviral development to protect against the disease in the DRC, which is seeing its largest surge of mpox cases with more than 19,000 suspected cases and 900 deaths since January 1, 2023.

The DRC field team, led by Leandre Murhula Masirika, collected swab samples from mpox patients at the Kamituga Hospital in eastern DRC from September 2023 to January 2024. Dr. David Kelvin, an emerging infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie, and his team sequenced the new strain in the laboratory of Luis Flores at the Center for Natural Sciences in Lwiro, DRC. The sequences were analyzed by Dr. Kelvin’s team at Dal.

Mpox viral infection can cause extremely painful lesions, fatigue, fever, aches and more serious complications in immunocompromised individuals, such as swollen lymph nodes and respiratory symptoms. The disease can cause death in up to 10 per cent of individuals.

In studying the samples, Dr. Kelvin and his colleagues determined that the mpox cluster in Kamituga was genetically distinct from previous mpox outbreaks and could be transmitted through heterosexual sex and community spread. This is in contrast to the global outbreak in 2022, which was spread primarily through men having sex with men and caused hundreds of deaths around the world. Dr. Kelvin’s team also mapped important mutations that might lead to increased transmission in humans, as described in their newly published paper.

Dr. Kelvin and his research team are available to discuss this new strain, concerns over its potential spread, and how the findings underscore the need for ongoing vigilance and continued sequencing of novel mpox threats in regions where it is endemic.


Author contacts:

Dr. David Kelvin (Principal Investigator)
Phone: +1 (647) 529-3556

Dr. Gustavo Sganzerla Martinez (Postdoctoral Researcher)
Phone: (902) 483-4995

Dr. Anuj Kumar (Postdoctoral Researcher)
Phone: (782) 774-8401

Benjamin Hewins (Research Associate)
Phone: (902) 300-9583

Leandre Murhula Masirika (Master’s student; Research Coordinator in DRC)
Phone: +243 990 449 166

Dr. Luis Flores Girón (Head Veterinarian and Capacity Building Manager, Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles de Lwiro)
Phone: 243 975 967 751

Media contact:

Alison Auld
Senior Research Reporter
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services
Dalhousie University  
Cell: 1-902-220-0491  


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