Monkeypox genetic material tracked by sewage monitoring helps show extent of spread

Detecting monkeypox in sewage is another tool adopted by public health officials across the United States to monitor the spread of the virus.

It’s a technique that was used by the Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network (SCAN) during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and researchers are now reusing that knowledge to track the presence of monkeypox in a given community, according to Kaiser Health. News (KHN).

In June, SCAN found the genetic material of monkeypox – as opposed to live virus – in San Francisco sewage. Further investigation of the Northern California sewers uncovered genetic material for the virus in Palo Alto, San Jose, Gilroy and Sacramento.

“It acts as an alert system, and you don’t have to persuade people to take individual tests to use the information; it’s collected passively, so you get a broader view of the community,” Brad Pollock, who chairs public health sciences at University of California Davis Health, told KHN.

CDC Foundation and National Science Foundation grants have helped expand SCAN’s monkeypox surveillance in several states, including Michigan, Georgia, Colorado, Kentucky, Idaho, Florida, and Texas.

Researchers plan to expand wastewater monitoring to 300 US cities.

The virus was declared a public health emergency by the Biden administration last week as cases topped 7,500 nationwide. California, New York and Illinois had previously issued states of emergency following the spread of monkeypox.

The World Health Organization said last month that 98% of cases were concentrated in men who have sex with men.

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