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This drug could help counter monkeypox as the outbreak spreads to 3 more countries

May 25, 2022, 1:03 PM UTC

British scientists have pointed to the oral medicine tecovirimat as a potential treatment for monkeypox, as the list of countries reporting unusual outbreaks of the disease continues to grow.

In a retrospective study published on Tuesday, researchers looked at treatments that had been given to monkeypox patients in previous outbreaks in the U.K., analyzing the efficacy of the drugs as well as any adverse effects they had had on the patients.

They studied records of seven patients who were diagnosed with monkeypox between 2018 and 2021.

Three of them had contracted monkeypox in the U.K. from an individual who had caught the virus overseas, while the rest of the patients had been infected in other countries.  

Five of the patients spent more than three weeks in isolation due to prolonged positive PCR test results.

One of the individuals in the study was treated with tecovirimat — an oral medicine used to treat smallpox, cowpox and monkeypox, all three of which belong to the orthopoxvirus family.

The patient was given 200mg of tecovirimat twice a day for two weeks, and had no adverse effects from the drug.

Compared with the other six patients, they had a shorter period of viral shedding and illness, and their hospitalization lasted just 10 days.

The FDA approved tecovirimat for use in the U.S. in 2018.

Meanwhile, three patients whose records were analyzed in the study were treated with a weekly 200mg dose of the antiviral brincidofovir — a drug used to treat smallpox.

However, they all developed elevated levels of liver enzymes during the course of treatment, which led doctors to end all three courses of brincidofovir early.

Monkeypox continues to spread

Three more countries — the UAE, Czech Republic and Slovenia — reported their first cases of monkeypox on Tuesday, as the virus continues to circulate outside of its usual hub in Africa.

Almost 20 countries, including the U.S., have now reported confirmed outbreaks of the virus, according to Reuters.

Several other countries are investigating suspected cases of monkeypox.

People who test positive for the virus are being kept in isolation, while U.K. health officials are advising contacts of confirmed cases to self-isolate for three weeks.

Health experts have sustained a position that the risk to the general public is low, with the WHO describing the outbreak as “containable.”

Monkeypox is a disease that usually spreads to humans from animals in parts of Africa.

While human-to-human transmission is rare, its is possible if an infected person has close or direct contact with someone else.

The current outbreak in countries where monkeypox is not endemic has predominantly been reported in men who identify as gay or bisexual.

While sexual contact can spread the virus due to close contact, it is not a sexually transmitted infection.

Health officials have stressed that people of any sexual orientation can contract the virus.

Symptoms are usually mild and include headaches, fever and a rash. People generally make a full recovery within a few weeks.

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