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An Investigation into the Historical Distribution, Prevalence, and Host Community of Monkeypox Virus (MPXV) Among Funisciurus Museum Skin Specimens from Central Africa

  • Author(s): Tiee, Madeline
  • Advisor(s): Smith, Thomas B
  • et al.
Abstract

Monkeypox virus (MPXV), a zoonotic DNA virus, is now considered the most important orthopoxvirus infection in human populations since the eradication of smallpox. The role of reservoir host species is highly important in this zoonotic disease due to the large percentage of human infections attributed to wildlife origins. As a disease that infects multiple hosts, limited knowledge of MPXV prevalence across host species and the relative importance of each host species to disease maintenance makes it difficult to predict human risk and target disease management efforts. In this study, we screened over 1000 museum skin specimens collected from 1899 to 1993 for viral DNA to understand historical MPXV infection in various Funisciurus species across the Congo Basin. MPX viral DNA was found in 93 of 1038 (9.0%) specimens from as early as 1899 and in five different Funisciurus species: Funisciurus anerythrus, Funisciurus carruthersi, Funisciurus congicus, Funisciurus lemniscatus, and Funisciurus pyrropus. We identify two new potential host species, gain insight into the relative prevalence rates of infection within museum skins between various Funisciurus species, and examine the spatial and temporal distribution of monkeypox virus in these possible host species.

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