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UKHSA Launches Mpox Immunity Study

A new study has been launched in the UK to gain a better understanding of the immunological response to the mpox virus that could help in preventing or limiting future outbreaks.

Scientists will compare antibody levels in around 200 people previously infected with the mpox virus, or who have received the mpox vaccination, or both, to observe antibody reaction in each eventuality and measure antibody longevity, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said .

A spokesperson for the Agency told Medscape News UK: "A significant reduction in antibody levels over time might infer a reduction in immunity, prompting further investigation to see if any action needs to be taken."

The spokesperson added that it was "becoming increasingly important to study this in the context of further cases being identified in France ".

Enrolment in the longitudinal immunology of mpox virus infection (LIMIT) study will be by invite and handled by the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Vaccine Effectiveness

In a statement, the Agency said: "The work builds on previous research by UKHSA, which found that one dose of the mpox vaccine offers 78% protection against the virus from 14 days after receiving it, providing strong protection for those at highest risk from mpox who are eligible."

The LIMIT study will be led by scientists at the UKHSA's Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory and the Emerging Pathogen Serology laboratory. It will be partly funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global coalition of groups working to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases .

Mpox Cases in the UK

Up to the end of December 2022, there were 3732 confirmed and highly probable cases of mpox reported in the UK. Of those, 3553 were in England, 97 in Scotland, 48 in Wales, and 34 in Northern Ireland. In 2023, six further cases of mpox were reported in the UK, of which five were in England, the UKHSA said in its latest bulletin containing data up to 27 February.

Dr Claire Gordon, consultant in infection at the UKHSA, said: "Alongside the many health professionals and third sector organisations that sprang into action when the first mpox case was identified almost a year ago, researchers around the world responded rapidly to build our collective knowledge so we could tackle the outbreak.

"We're now seeing very few new cases of mpox in the UK but their work continues. The knowledge gained from this study will help us reach our ultimate goal of eliminating mpox transmission in the UK as well as strengthening our work to prevent or limit any future outbreaks.

"We already know vaccination is key to reducing the severity of symptoms and preventing further transmission, so I would urge everyone eligible to come forward for both doses, so they have maximum long lasting protection."

In its strategy for controlling mpox, published in December 2022, the UK Government listed a number of scientific uncertainties concerning mpox. Those included effectiveness of the vaccine against disease and impact on transmission, the potential of the mpox virus to adapt for enhanced transmission between humans or to evolve in other ways, and the duration of natural and vaccine-derived immunity .

Mpox was adopted as the new name for monkeypox in November last year when the World Health Organisation acted to prevent racist and stigmatising language being used online in connection with the disease.