Scientists identify infectious monkeypox virus mutations

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

November 7, 2022 -- University of Missouri researchers have identified the specific mutations in the monkeypox virus that make it so infectious. The results could lead to modified versions of existing drugs or the development of new ones.

Scientists analyzed the DNA sequences of more than 200 strains of the monkeypox virus spanning multiple decades from when the virus first started spreading in 1965 to more recently this year (Journal of Autoimmunity, December 2022, Vol. 133, 102928). Doing so allowed them to determine how the virus evolved.

The latest strain is accumulating mutations specifically where drugs and antibodies from vaccines are supposed to bind. The virus is getting smarter and becoming resistant to treatment, which means more widespread infection.

The scientists made the discovery by creating an accurate 3D model of monkeypox virus proteins. By doing so, they identified where the specific mutations were located and what their functions were.

The virus has approximately 200,000 DNA bases in the genome and is converted into nearly 200 proteins. The specific proteins the researchers identified as key components of the monkeypox virus are DNA polymerase, DNA helicase, bridging protein A22R, DNA glycosylase, and G9R.

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