Diagnostic firms are racing to develop tests for monkeypox, hoping to tap into a new market as governments increase efforts to trace the world’s first major outbreak of the virus outside Africa.
The scramble began last month, shadowing early 2020 when companies rushed to make kits to help diagnose COVID-19, creating a multibillion-dollar gift for test makers.
But demand for monkeypox tests will be a fraction of what it was for COVID-19, given the disease is not as transmissible nor as dangerous as COVID-19. Monkeypox typically spreads through close contact and causes influenza-like symptoms and pus-filled lesions on the skin that generally resolve on their own within weeks.
And unlike the sudden emergence of COVID-19, treatments, vaccines, and tests can already help control the spread of monkeypox.
About 30 countries have reported over 550 confirmed cases of monkeypox since early May. Most of the cases were in Europe and not linked to travel to Africa, where the viral disease is endemic. Public health authorities in Europe suspect some degree of community transmission. There have been no reported deaths.
Although the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has said it expects infections to rise as surveillance expands, the head of its European Unit warned the spread could accelerate as people gather for parties and festivals over the summer.