PCR tests for monkeypox: How the virus is detected

Two or more swabs should be collected for the highest diagnostic yield

By A Staff Reporter

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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Mon 30 May 2022, 4:16 PM

Last updated: Mon 30 May 2022, 10:31 PM

At least 20 countries have reported more than 300 confirmed or suspected monkeypox infections. Prior to the recent outbreak, the virus used to be limited to a small and medium group of people. The disease, which was first identified in monkeys, mostly occurs in west and central Africa, and only very occasionally spreads elsewhere.

Health authorities in the UAE have reported four cases of the virus so far. The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) has also said that infected individuals would be isolated in hospitals till they recover, while close contacts would need to quarantine at home for 21 days.

How is monkeypox detected?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), laboratory testing would “enable timely and accurate confirmation of infection to support the breaking of chains of transmission, to stop the outbreak”.

Confirmation of monkeypox virus infection is based on “nucleic acid amplification testing (NAAT), using real-time or conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR), for detection of unique sequences of viral DNA,” the WHO said.

What samples are collected?

The recommended specimen type for laboratory confirmation of monkeypox is skin lesion material. These include swabs of lesion surface and/or exudate, roofs from more than one lesion, or lesion crusts.

The samples are then sent for a PCR test. “Two or more swabs should be collected for the highest diagnostic yield,” Dr. Shivani Anubhav Chaturvedi, clinical pathologist and lab director, Aster Medinova Diagnostic Centre, Bur Dubai, told Khaleej Times earlier.

In the UAE, health facilities are required to immediately report any suspected, potential or confirmed monkeypox cases through the MoHAP’s electronic reporting system for contagious diseases.


How contagious is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is milder compared to Covid-19 and less contagious, according to experts. "Monkeypox is not that contagious, though human to human transmission is possible with low infectivity," a doctor had told Khaleej Times earlier.


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