Scientists have been awarded £2million to help tackle the global outbreak of monkeypox with the creation of a new consortium.
A team of 25 researchers from 12 institutions will study the virus, examine the effectiveness of the smallpox vaccine – which is used to protect against monkeypox, and develop tests to identify and manage the disease.
Professor Bryan Charleston, co-director of the Pirbright Institute, which is a member of the consortium, said: “The implications of the current monkeypox outbreak are enormous.
“In addition to fighting the current epidemic, we also need to be fully prepared for the next epidemic, because there is a huge reservoir of infection in the world.
“One of the main ways to do this is to develop rapid tests, which are very important in helping frontline clinicians manage the disease.”
Led by the Pirbright Institute and the MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research, the consortium will also review potential drugs and determine which ones could be used for further testing.
Experts will also seek to identify animal reservoirs and potential transmission routes between animals and humans.
To see how effective the smallpox vaccine is in preventing or reducing the severity of monkeypox, researchers will track immune responses after primary and secondary vaccination.
Professor Massimo Palmarini, Co-Head of the MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research, said: “Monkey pox is a public health challenge, so it is essential to take decisive collective action to better understand this virus.
“By bringing together research expertise from different fields, we will harness cutting-edge knowledge from the UK to learn more about how the virus works and spreads and provide the basis for the development of potential new treatments.”
There have been more than 3,500 confirmed cases of monkeypox since May – although the number of new cases is currently falling.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus has spread to 106 countries and territories with 25 confirmed deaths.
The monkeypox virus outbreak originated in West Africa and cases outside of this area were first identified in May 2022.