Smallpox is a significant bioterror threat, but there are no rapid, accurate methods to detect it. In the September issue of Nature Medicine, researchers report on a diagnostic method that could be used to accurately detect smallpox. The report also shows that smallpox vaccination confers protection for decades.
Routine smallpox vaccination in the US stopped in 1972, more than 20 years after the last case of smallpox in the country. Erika Hammarlund and colleagues used data from a 2003 outbreak of monkeypox in the US to develop diagnostic methods. Monkeypox, less dangerous than its deadly cousin smallpox, is caused by a virus of the same family.
The researchers' analysis showed that the monkeypox outbreak was of a larger scale than previously thought, at least in part because of protection conferred by smallpox vaccination. The data suggest that smallpox vaccination can protect against similar diseases, such as monkeypox, for up to 75 years after inoculation, the researchers say.
Mark Kenneth Slifka
Oregon Health & Sciences University, Beaverton, OR, USA
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
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