Enhancing surveillance and detection of mpox across Africa
Mpox (previously referred to as monkeypox) is a neglected but re-emerging zoonotic disease caused by an orthopoxvirus endemic to several Central and West African countries. This virus can cause severe illness in infected patients and can be fatal. Although there have been few outbreaks outside endemic countries, a global mpox outbreak in May 2022 resulted in the World Health Organization declaring a public health emergency of international concern.
Mpox transmission between humans has historically occurred through close contacts with infected individuals. However, this recent global outbreak appears to be strongly associated with sexual contact, particularly between gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. The reasons for this change in transmission mechanisms are not well understood. Although a vaccine (Imvamune®) and an antiviral drug (Tecovirimat®), both originally developed for smallpox (also an orthopoxvirus), are being used for mpox, there is limited evidence to support their effectiveness.
Through coordinated efforts in Canada and Africa, the goal of this project is to collect, analyze and deliver rapidly generated knowledge to public health officials, policymakers and priority communities regarding mpox infection and transmission risks, clinical characteristics, and relative vaccine and therapeutic effectiveness. The geographic coverage of the project will include study sites and research collaborators across nine African countries (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda) and five Canadian provinces (Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan). The project is funded through a joint funding initiative between IDRC and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.