Monkeypox: Roche develops 3 PCR test kits to detect the virus. 10 points

Swiss multinational healthcare firm Roche has said that the firm with its subsidiary TIB Molbiol has developed three PCR test kits to help scientists trace the monkeypox virus. The tests will aid in tracing spread and will be available in most countries, Roche said in a statement.

Over the past few days, several European and North American countries including Britain, France, and the US have reported cases of Monkeypox. With Czech Republic, Austria, and Slovenia registering their first cases, the global health officials have tracked over 230 suspected and confirmed cases of Monkeypox in 19 countries since early May. 

One key containment measure is the ability to identify cases quickly, so close contacts of the people who’ve gotten sick can be isolated to prevent further spread of the disease.

Thomas Schinecker, CEO Roche Diagnostics said “Roche has very quickly developed a new suite of tests that detect the monkeypox virus and aid in following its epidemiologic spread.” 

“Diagnostic tools are crucial for responding to and ultimately controlling emerging public health challenges as they advance response measures such as tracing efforts and treatment strategies,” Schinecker added.

Here’s what we know about the PCR test kits, symptoms and treatments

  • Roche said one of the kits screens for monkeypox only, while two of them can detect other orthopoxviruses, a genus of viruses that includes smallpox as well as monkeypox.
  • The first LightMix Modular Virus kit detects orthopoxviruses, including all monkeypox viruses from both the West African and Central African forms of the virus (referred to as clades)
  • The second kit is a specific test detecting monkeypox viruses only (West African and Central African clade). 
  • The third kit simultaneously detects orthopoxviruses plus provides information on whether a monkeypox virus is present or not (West African and Central African clade).
  • The kits use a technology called quantitative PCR (qPCR). To do this, first sample using an established NA extraction method. The assay is then performed on either a LightCycler® 480 II Instrument or cobas z 480 Analyzer.
  • Most monkeypox patients experience only fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.
  • A monkeypox rash usually starts on the face – sometimes in the mouth too – and then the arms and legs, hands and feet, as well as the trunk of the body.
  • Monkeypox needs close physical contact to spread, said WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan, adding that rave parties may have facilitated infections.
  • World Health Organization has said the first generation of smallpox vaccines appear up to 85% effective in preventing monkeypox as both viruses are closely related.
  • The test kits are available for research use in the majority of countries worldwide. 

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