A Tale of Two Viruses: Coinfections of Monkeypox and Varicella Zoster Virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Recent enhanced monkeypox (MPX) surveillance in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where MPX is endemic, has uncovered multiple cases of MPX and varicella zoster virus (VZV) coinfections. The purpose of this study was to verify if coinfections occur and to characterize the clinical nature of these cases. Clinical, epidemiological, and laboratory results were used to investigate MPX/VZV coinfections.A coinfection was defined as a patient with at least one Orthopoxvirus/MPX-positive sample and at least one VZV-positive sample within the same disease event.

Between September 2009 and April 2014, 134 of the 1,107 (12.1%) suspected MPX cases were confirmed as MPX/VZV coinfections. Coinfections were more likely to report symptoms than VZV-alone cases and less likely than MPX-alone cases. Significantly higher lesion counts were observed for coinfection cases than for VZV-alone but less than MPX-alone cases.

Discernible differences in symptom and rash severity were detected for coinfection cases compared with those with MPX or VZV alone.

Findings indicate infection with both MPX and VZV could modulate infection severity. Collection of multiple lesion samples allows for the opportunity to detect coinfections. As this program continues, it will be important to continue these procedures to assess variations in the proportion of coinfected cases over time.

  • Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease caused by monkeypox virus (MPXV), which is a member of orthopoxvirus genus. The reemergence of MPXV in 2017 (at Bayelsa state) after 39 years of no reported case in Nigeria, and the export of travelers’ monkeypox (MPX) from Nigeria to other parts of the world, in 2018 and 2019, respectively, have raised concern that MPXV may have emerged to occupy the ecological and immunological niche vacated by smallpox virus.
  • This review X-rays the current state of knowledge pertaining the infection biology, epidemiology, and evolution of MPXV in Nigeria and worldwide, especially with regard to the human, cellular, and viral factors that modulate the virus transmission dynamics, infection, and its maintenance in nature.
  • This paper also elucidates the role of recombination, gene loss and gene gain in MPXV evolution, chronicles the role of signaling in MPXV infection, and reviews the current therapeutic options available for the treatment and prevention of MPX.
  • Additionally, genome-wide phylogenetic analysis was undertaken, and we show that MPXV isolates from recent 2017 outbreak in Nigeria were monophyletic with the isolate exported to Israel from Nigeria but do not share the most recent common ancestor with isolates obtained from earlier outbreaks, in 1971 and 1978, respectively.
  • Finally, the review highlighted gaps in knowledge particularly the non-identification of a definitive reservoir host animal for MPXV and proposed future research endeavors to address the unresolved questions.

Comparison of Multiplexed Immunofluorescence Imaging to Chromogenic Immunohistochemistry of Skin Biomarkers in Response to Monkeypox Virus Infection

Over the last 15 years, advances in immunofluorescence-imaging based cycling methods, antibody conjugation methods, and automated image processing have facilitated the development of a high-resolution, multiplexed tissue immunofluorescence (MxIF) method with single cell-level quantitation termed Cell DIVETM. Originally developed for fixed oncology samples, here it was evaluated in highly fixed (up to 30 days), archived monkeypox virus-induced inflammatory skin lesions from a retrospective study in 11 rhesus monkeys to determine whether MxIF was comparable to manual H-scoring of chromogenic stains.

Six protein markers related to immune and cellular response (CD68, CD3, Hsp70, Hsp90, ERK1/2, ERK1/2 pT202_pY204) were manually quantified (H-scores) by a pathologist from chromogenic IHC double stains on serial sections and compared to MxIF automated single cell quantification of the same markers that were multiplexed on a single tissue section. Overall, there was directional consistency between the H-score and the MxIF results for all markers except phosphorylated ERK1/2 (ERK1/2 pT202_pY204), which showed a decrease in the lesion compared to the adjacent non-lesioned skin by MxIF vs an increase via H-score. Improvements to automated segmentation using machine learning and adding additional cell markers for cell viability are future options for improvement. This method could be useful in infectious disease research as it conserves tissue, provides marker colocalization data on thousands of cells, allowing further cell level data mining as well as a reduction in user bias.

The protection provided by smallpox vaccines when used after exposure to Orthopoxviruses is poorly understood. Postexposu re administration of 1st generation smallpox vaccines was effective during eradication.

However, historical epidemiological reports and animal studies on postexposure vaccination are difficult to extrapolate to today’s populations, and 2nd and 3rd generation vaccines, developed after eradication, have not been widely tested in postexposure vaccination scenarios.

In addition to concerns about preparedness for a potential malevolent reintroduction of variola virus, humans are becoming increasingly exposed to naturally occurring zoonotic orthopoxviruses and, following these exposures, disease severity is worse in individuals who never received smallpox vaccination. This study investigated whether postexposure vaccination of prairie dogs with 2nd and 3rd generation smallpox vaccines was protective against monkeypox disease in four exposure scenarios.

We infected animals with monkeypox virus at doses of 104 pfu (2× LD50) or 106 pfu (170× LD50) and vaccinated the animals with IMVAMUNE or ACAM2000 either 1 or 3 days after challenge. Our results indicated that postexposure vaccination protected the animals to some degree from the 2× LD50, but not the 170× LD5 challenge.

In the 2× LD50 challenge, we also observed that administration of vaccine at 1 day was more effective than administration at 3 days postexposure for IMVAMUNE, but ACAM2000 was similarly effective at either postexposure vaccination time-point.

The effects of postexposure vaccination and correlations with survival of total and neutralizing antibody responses, protein targets, take formation, weight loss, rash burden, and viral DNA are also presented.

Monkeypox (MPX) is a zoonotic disease similar to smallpox. Its fatality rate is about 11% and it is endemic to the Central and West African countries. In this paper, we analyze a compartmental model of MPX dynamics. Our goal is to see whether MPX can be controlled and eradicated by voluntary vaccinations.

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We show that there are three equilibria-disease free, fully endemic and previously neglected semi-endemic (with disease existing only among humans). The existence of semi-endemic equilibrium has severe implications should the MPX virus mutate to increased viral fitness in humans. We find that MPX is controllable and can be eradicated in a semi-endemic equilibrium by vaccination. However, in a fully endemic equilibrium, MPX cannot be eradicated by vaccination alone.

 

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