Presence of monkeypox viruses in distantly related small mammal species
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A latest research posted to the Research Square* preprint server depicted that distantly linked tiny mammal species from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) harbor monkeypox viruses (MPXV).

Study: Monkeypox viruses flow into in distantly-related small mammal species within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Image Credit: FOTOGRIN/Shutterstock


The MPXV, belonging to the Orthopoxvirus (OPXV) genus beneath the Poxviridae household, causes human monkeypox, a zoonotic sickness. Its medical manifestations are much like smallpox. The case fatality fee in adults is usually low, nevertheless it would possibly exceed 10% in kids.

Two MPXV genetic clades had been acknowledged in Africa, the place the virus is usually discovered. The genetic clades discerned are a Congo Basin (MPXV-CB) clade discovered completely in Central Africa and a West African (MPXV-WA) clade discovered solely in nations west of Cameroon.

Although the MPXV-CB was beforehand regarded as extra transmissible and virulent in people as a result of small pattern measurement, the 2017 to 2018 MPXV-WA outbreak in Nigeria revealed MPXV-WA’s enhanced virulence. The rising prevalence and interpersonal transmission of each strains in endemic areas underline the necessity for a deeper understanding of the eco-epidemiological determinants of the illness.

The pure MPXV reservoir is unknown, as is the assumed animal source of preliminary human infections. MPXV has solely been extracted from three African indigenous wild mammals: Funisciurus anerythrus (redless tree squirrel) within the DRC and Cercocebus atys atys (a sooty mangabey), Pan troglodytes verus (western chimpanzees) within the Ta National Park in Côte d’Ivoire.

While primates are believed to be incidental hosts, rodents corresponding to Heliosciurus sp., CricetomysFunisciurus, and Graphiurus are thought of attainable reservoirs of the virus. Nevertheless, empirical proof to again up these theories is proscribed and primarily centered on serological info or deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) amplicons missing sequencing affirmation.

About the research

In the present work, the researchers evaluated full and near-complete MPXV genomes in a Crocidura littoralis (shrew), Funisciurus bayonii, and F. anerythrus (squirrels) from the DRC. Further, they assessed Cricetomys sp. 2 and Stochomys longicaudatus (rats) for the presence of MPXV sequences.

The group has been monitoring small mammal biodiversity and pathogens in quite a few websites within the DRC’s Tshopo and Ituri provinces since 2010. A subset of 256 randomly chosen samples, together with tissues gathered over six years from 97 rodents, 93 shrews, and 66 bats, had been examined for the existence of MPXV DNA using two polymerase chain response (PCR) evaluations aiming at distinct viral genes (haemagglutinin and P4A), with positives validated by Sanger sequencing. The investigators utilized high-throughput sequencing and in-solution hybridization seize to F. anerythrus, C. littoralis, and F. bayonii.

Results and discussions

The research outcomes demonstrated that the tissues from 4 rodent species, particularly Funisciurus bayonii, Funisciurus anerythrus, Cricetomys sp. 2, and Stochomys longicaudatus, and one shrew, Crocidura littoralis, harbored MPXV DNAThe group efficiently extracted two complete MPXV genomes from C. littoralis, F. anerythrus, and one partial (59%) genome from F. bayonii. Hence, MPXV in all probability spontaneously circulates in quite a few, distantly related rodent species from a minimal of three numerous households, particularly NesomyidaeSciuridae, and Muridae, and in shrews from the order Eulipotyphla. Although few of those detection incidences would possibly point out dead-end infections, they had been according to the concept MPXV has a large host variety and doubtlessly an advanced multi-host ecology.

The incontrovertible fact that MPXV was extracted initially from a Funisciurus squirrel could have skewed the authors’ view of MPXV ecology, as a large number of follow-up analysis centered on squirrels and may need missed further animal orders corresponding to bats or shrews. The researchers additionally identified that the definition of a major reservoir can differ relying on the scenario.

Further, the MPXVs reported within the F. anerythrus and shrew had been extremely correlated to at least one one other and belong inside the vary of MPXV strains noticed in folks in Central Africa, based on Bayesian phylogenetic and most probability (ML) research. They additionally possessed the time to the latest widespread ancestor (tMRCA), based mostly on the closest reported genomes from 1959. ML evaluation of the partial MPXV genome found in F. bayonii revealed that it teams with different MPXV-CB strains.

The discovery of recent animal-stemmed sequences allowed researchers to reevaluate the long-held concept that MPXV variety was primarily as a consequence of previous vicariance processes triggered by climate-mediated forest-habitat constriction, just like the opening of the Dahomey hole or the Last Glacial Maximum. Interestingly, the scientists found that such variety was very latest to be coherent with these occurrences, with the most effective mannequin placing the MPXV tree root at round 600 years outdated.

Nonetheless, given the minor variance amongst MPXV-CB and MPXV-WA, the group didn’t anticipate this would possibly considerably influence MPXV’s projected evolutionary time scale, making it agreeable with essential local weather parameters as offered by Nakazawa et al. Instead, they consider that the geographical separation of the 2 clades occurred extra just lately or that alternate evolutionary elements had been at work.


Overall, the current analysis implies that, along with squirrels (households Nesomyidae and Muridae) and shrews (order Eulipotyphla), a number of different rodents could possibly be attainable monkeypox viral reservoirs. Furthermore, the findings add to the scant proof that Funisciurus squirrels could possibly be key MPXV reservoirs.

To conclude, the present research enhances the understanding of MPXV ecology by demonstrating the prevalence of MPXV DNA in quite a few forest-residing rodents and shrews. This discovery necessitates heightened surveillance in a broader array of African mammals to study extra about MPXV’s host distribution and vary and analyze if varied animal cohorts possess totally different MPXV strains with variable virulence.

*Important discover

Research Square publishes preliminary scientific stories that aren’t peer-reviewed and, due to this fact, shouldn’t be thought to be conclusive, information medical follow/health-related habits, or handled as established info.

Journal reference:

  • Mariën, J. et al. (2021) “Monkeypox viruses circulate in distantly-related small mammal species in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”. Research Square. doi: 10.21203/

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