Study decodes how mpox virus infiltrates brain cells

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Last Updated on February 17, 2024 by

Toronto, Feb 17 (IANS) Mpox (Monkeypox) virus may be infiltrating cells responsible for normal brain functioning causing neurological symptoms in people affected by the virus, finds a study.

Mpox virus is transmitted primarily through close physical contact and causes a disease with symptoms similar to smallpox, although less severe.

In May of 2022, the virus saw a major outbreak, spreading to more than 100 countries and causing over 86,900 infections across the world. Between January 1, 2022 and November 30, 2023, a total of 92,783 laboratory-confirmed cases of mpox, including 171 deaths, have been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from 116 countries.

Researchers from the University of Alberta used laboratory experiments to infect human brain cells with the mpox virus.

In a newly published research in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team found mpox virus infiltrated the astrocytes — a type of cell responsible for normal brain function — triggering an extreme immune response.

“Astrocytes are the most abundant neural cells in the brain,” said first author Hajar Miranzadeh Mahabadi, a postdoctoral fellow in medicine from the varsity.

“We found that monkeypox virus can efficiently infect these cells and can induce a kind of brain cell death we call pyroptosis.”

The virus is transmitted by skin or sexual contact or respiratory droplets, and this outbreak has mainly affected men who have sex with men.

Common symptoms include a rash, fever and aching muscles, but neurological symptoms such as headache, mental confusion and seizures have increasingly been observed, suggesting inflammation of brain tissue.

“The extent of monkeypox virus cases, particularly those associated with neurological complications, highlighted the urgent need to understand the potential effect of monkeypox virus in the central nervous system,” Mahabadi said, noting this is the first study to examine brain cells exposed to mpox virus.

The research team identified a potential avenue for treatment when they were able to reduce cell death in mpox virus-infected cells by treating them with dimethyl fumarate, a compound approved in Europe for psoriasis and used to treat multiple sclerosis in the United States and Canada.

The researchers noted there are now two antiviral treatments approved for mpox disease and there is also a vaccine available in Canada for preventing disease in vulnerable populations.

The team plans to continue research on mpox and the brain, and to examine why mpox disease seems to be more severe and has a higher mortality rate among people who also have HIV.

–IANS

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Last Updated on February 17, 2024 by

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