Vaccine expected to induce strong immune responses against the 2022 monkeypox virus, research shows

Dr Matthew McKay, Honorary Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology , co-leads latest study.

The new research has suggested that recommended vaccinia virus (VACV)-based vaccines will mount a robust immune response against the monkeypox virus observed in the current outbreak (MPXV-2022).

Since the new virus was first observed in early May 2022, over 52,000 cases have been confirmed in more than 90 countries, including Australia, where 124 cases have been diagnosed (confirmed and probable).

Weeks after the new strain emerged, the team undertook genomic research to find out if the genetic mutations observed in MPXV-2022 may affect vaccine-induced immune responses against monkeypox.

Using genomic and immunological data, the team evaluated the genetic similarities and differences between VACV and MPXV-2022, specifically within the protein regions that are targeted by vaccine-induced neutralising antibodies or T cells.

The study, co-led by Professor Matthew McKay, Honorary Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, together with collaborators from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, was published in the international journal Viruses. It also featured in the Herald Sun, Today UK News, Economic Times, and Press Trust of India, Medical News Today.

Professor McKay, is an ARC Future Fellow and Professor in Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) and was recently appointed as Honorary Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Doherty Institute, bringing together his expertise in signal processing, machine learning and data science, with an emphasis on infectious diseases and vaccines.

“Specific VACV-based vaccines have demonstrated high efficacy against monkeypox viruses in the past and are considered an important outbreak control measure,” Professor McKay said.

“However, given this is a novel monkeypox virus, we still lack scientific data on how well human immune responses triggered by VACV-based vaccines will recognise MPXV-2022 and provide protection against disease.”

“While bringing together sequencing and immunological data provides evidence to anticipate a strong immune response, clinical studies are required to determine the exact efficacy of these vaccines against MPXV-2022," said Professor McKay.

This article was originally published by the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity on  9 September 2022.

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