Feb. 6, 2008 Researchers in Washington and Oregon report an advance toward developing much-needed new drugs and vaccines for monkeypox. The disease occurs mainly among rodents, monkeys, and other animals in Africa, but has been transmitted to humans resulting in high mortality rates. Although this deadly viral disease rarely occurs naturally in the United States, it is a potential bioterrorism agent.
In an article, Richard D. Smith and colleagues note that monkeypox is caused by a virus closely-related to smallpox. Naturally occurring smallpox has been eradicated worldwide thanks to a vaccine that has occasional serious side-effects. However, no safe and proven vaccine or effective medication currently exists for monkeypox.
In their study, mass spectrometry and other sensitive lab techniques were used to compare proteins produced by both monkeypox virus (MPV) and by the vaccinia virus (VV), which is the basis for current smallpox vaccines. The researchers identified nine proteins that were specific to MPV and eight that were specific to VV. Importantly, proteins present in MPV, but absent in VV seem to be critical for the high virulence of MPV, they point out.
This knowledge may be the key to the development of new medications and vaccines for preventing and treating monkeypox, as well as to the production of safer versions of more general pox-related vaccines, the researchers say.
The article "Comparative Proteomics of human Monkeypox and Vaccinia Intracellular Mature and Extracellular Enveloped Virions" is scheduled for the March issue of the ACS' Journal of Proteome Research. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/pr070432+
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