Open Thread, also Monkeypox
The return of academic conferences continues to block my posting potential. I’m going to need a few weeks to emerge from my current purgatory, during which there may be a few silences like this. Thereafter, however, there will be no more of these evil wastes of time, or almost no more of them. I’m making background arrangements to extract myself from these tiresome obligations.
In the meantime, here’s a pre-print with what we know about the monkeypox virus genome, from a 4 May Portuguese sample:
A first rapid phylogenetic analysis of the draft genome … indicates that the 2022 virus belongs to the [milder] West African clade and is most closely related to viruses associated with the exportation of monkeypox virus from Nigeria to several countries in 2018 and 2019, namely the United Kingdom, Israel and Singapore.
Preliminary hypothesis has to be that this virus was introduced years ago, perhaps just before the Corona pandemic, and has been circulating at low levels unnoticed until now.
Yes, I know about the 2021 NTI tabletop exercise featuring a modified monkeypox pathogen. But, here are two things that make the current moment unlike Event 201:
1) The pathogen at the centre of the exercise is some modified bio-terror weapon, as is usual for these tabletop simulations. Event 201 was odd because, exceptionally, it featured a naturally occurring pathogen precisely on the eve of a pandemic caused by a virus that was almost certainly leaked from a lab.
2) Smallpox outbreaks are classic pathogens for these tabletop exercises, as the important pandemic botherers all owe something to the late 20th-century campaign to eradicate smallpox. The related monkeypox virus is thus an understandable pathogen. Event 201, on a naturally occurring coronavirus, was in the world of pandemic simulations rather more of an exception.