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Monkeypox: Experts give virus variants new names



By Linda Ike

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said a Group of Global Expert has agreed on a new name for Monkeypox virus variants.

WHO disclosed this in a report on Friday that it was as part of ongoing efforts to align the names of the Monkeypox disease, virus and variants or clades with current best practices.

The report stated that the experts agreed to name the clades using Roman numerals

It said Monkeypox virus was named upon first discovery in 1958, before current best practices in naming diseases and viruses were adopted.

Similarly for the name of the disease it causes while major variants were identified by the geographic regions where they where known to circulate

According to the report, current best practice is that newly identified virus, related disease, and virus variants should be given names with that aim to avoid causing offence to any regional, cultural, social, national, professional,or ethnic groups and minimise any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare.

It also explained that assigning new names to existing diseases is the responsibility of WHO under the International Classification of Diseases and the WHO Family of International Health Related Classification (WHO-FIC).

WHO said it is holding an open consultation for a new disease name for monkeypox, urging anyone who wishes to propose new names to do so here.

It added “the naming of virus species is the responsibility of the International Committee on the Taxonomy underway for (ICTV), which has a process under way for the name of the monkeypox virus.

“the naming of variants for existing pathogens is normally the result of debate amongst scientists.

“Inorder to expedite agreement in the context of the current outbreak, WHO convened an adhoc meeting on 8 August to enable virologists and public health experts to reach consensus on new terminology.

“Experts in virology, evolutionary biology and representatives of research institutes from across the globe reviewed the phylogeny and nomenclature of known and new monkeypox virus variants or clades.

“They discussed the characteristics and evolutions of monkeypox virus variants, their apparent phylogenetic and clinical differences, and potential consequences for public health and future virological and evolutionary research.

“The group reached consensus for new nomenclature for the virus clades that is in line with the best practices.

“They agreed on how the virus clade should be recorded and classified on genome sequence repository sites.

“Consensus was reached to now refer to the former Congo Basin ( Central Africa) clade as clade one and the former West African clade as clade two
“Additionally, it was agreed that clade one consists of two subclades.

“The proper naming structure will be presented by a Roman numeral for the clade and a lover case. Alphanumeric character for the subclades,

“Thus, the naming convention comprises clade 1, clade 1a and clade 1b, with the letter referring primarily to the group of variants largely circulating in the 2022 global outbreak.

“The naming of linages will be as proposed by scientists as outbreak involves.

“Experts will be reconvened as needed” it stated.

The group said the new name for the clades should go into effect immediately while work continues on the disease and virus name.

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