The first British patients with monkeypox presented symptoms different from those normally detected in African countries where, Until last spring, this disease was considered endemic, according to a study published on Saturday..
In general, a high fever was considered an almost systematic symptom of the disease, but, of the patients studied in the United Kingdom, this only happened to just over half, says the study, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases. .
The research, carried out with some fifty patients, is one of the first to characterize the clinical specificities of the current monkeypox epidemic.
Until last spring, when monkeypox began to spread, the disease was considered endemic in only about ten African countries.
But in recent months there have been many cases in Europe and on the American continent: more than 3,000 according to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
The UK is one of the first countries to report cases this year. The observations of this study were made at the end of May, when only a hundred patients had been detected in that country.
Thus, the sample corresponds to more than half of the known patients there at that time. In his case, monkeypox manifested itself very differently than it does in Africa in general. Not only because there were fewer cases of fever, but because, when there was an increase in temperature, it lasted much less. In addition, hospitalizations were also much less frequent.
As for the typical lesions of the disease, these were concentrated mainly around the genitals. In the previous cases, they used to be much more extensive, affecting, for example, the face or the neck.
For the authors of the study, this peculiarity suggests that the first British cases were spread by contact during sexual intercourse. This hypothesis -which does not mean that the disease is sexually transmitted- is based on the well-founded idea that the condition can be spread by touching a skin lesion on another patient.
Most European and American cases have so far been in men who have sex with men, but they are not the only ones affected.
The authors of the study consider that their observations suggest that the definition of the disease should be broadened to better detect new cases, for example, not insisting so much on fever.
However, the fact that different symptoms are occurring does not mean that the current epidemic is due to a new version of the virus, as other researchers emphasize.
“There is no significant genetic modification” in the viruses sequenced in current patients, said pulmonologist Hugh Adler, speaking to AFP. According to him, cases may not have been detected in Africa because they did not have fever or because the skin lesions were limited, which would bias the comparisons.