Copyright X 1992, American Society for Microbiology Independent Evolution of Monkeypox and Variola Viruses


Smallpox was eradicated more than 10 years ago, but infection with another Orthopoxvirus, monkeypox virus, can result in a clinical picture resembling smallpox. Human infection with monkeypox virus is extremely rare, not easily transmitted, and confined to the rain forest belt of Africa (Z. Jezek and F. Fenner, p. 81-102, in Humnan Monkeypox, 1988). Evidence that variola virus, the causative agent of smallpox, might be readily derived from monkeypox virus was presented [S. S. Marennikova and E. M. Shelukhina, Nature (London) 276:291-292, 1978; S. S. Marennikova, E. M. Shelukhina, N. N. Maltseva, and G. R. Matsevich, Intervirology 11:333-340,1979], but this was not confirmed [K. R. Dumbell and L. C. Archard, Nature (London) 286:29-32, 1980] and was subsequently discounted (J. J. Esposito, J. H. Nakano, and J. F. Obijeski, Bull. W.H.O. 63:695-703, 1985). Although enough difference between the genomes of monkeypox and variola viruses to rule out a simple interconversion has been demonstrated [K. R. Dumbell and L. C. Archard, Nature (London

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