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University of Manitoba teaming up with researchers in Africa to study mpox


Scientists from the University of Manitoba are joining forces with researchers in Africa to investigate the global spread of mpox and the virus that causes the illness.

The U of M researchers have teamed up with the National Biomedical Research Institute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a multi-pronged study into mpox, which was formerly known as monkeypox.

The research team is looking at why mpox moved out of the endemic regions and spread across the world, how mpox has changed, and if there is a new variant.

The scientists will also conduct assessments to determine if mpox cases have been missed by looking for antibodies, and will investigate the effectiveness of Imvamune mpox vaccine.

“A lot of this is going to be based on outreach programs,” said team co-lead Jason Kindrachuk, a U of M Canada Research Chair and assistant professor, in an interview on Wednesday.

“Working with or community partners to be able to pre-position ourselves to get information out to the public when needed, to be able to get it out to policymakers, to be able to assess things like vaccine effectiveness.”

Kindrachuk said the global spread of mpox has dropped off, adding that this has to do with several factors, including community outreach efforts and community organizations helping to spread information “We’ve also seen a vaccination program. So we’re able to get those cases curbed,” he said.

Kindrachuk added that though cases have decreased in most parts of the world, that is not the case in Central and West Africa.

He added that in certain places, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, cases have continued to rise.

“They’ve seen thousands of cases this year that have at least been documented or suspected. Many that have not yet been identified, and they’ve seen a heavy and continual death toll from those cases,” he said.

Kindrachuk said the problem is that the mpox vaccine isn’t always distributed to many of the most vulnerable countries.

“Now the virus is endemic in many areas of West and Central Africa,” he said.

Kindrachuk added that it’s important to be prepared for what could happen in the future, explaining that even with the vaccine, there was an emergence of a new type of mpox last year.

“There is no certainty that moving forward, we won’t see something like that happen again, and we need to be prepared,” he said.

Kindrachuk said the study is about better positioning ourselves for preparedness and containment efforts in Central and West Africa.

“I think that really is the key for us is being responsive at the source of the virus itself,” he said.

The study has received $2.8 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the International Development Research Centre.

-With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagace. Top Stories

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