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Academician Chumakov: "Our Soviet vaccine against smallpox can protect against monkeypox"
25 May, 09:13
Academician Chumakov: "Our Soviet vaccine against smallpox can protect against monkeypox"
More than 100 cases of monkeypox infection were recorded in the world in May. Mortality from this disease ranges from 3 to 10%.

About what to fear, as well as the origin of the virus and protective measures, journalist Irina Mishina talks with Russian molecular biologist, virologist, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Petr Chumakov.

Irina Mishina

- Everyone still has fresh memories of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and again the threat of an epidemic: today, cases of the spread of monkeypox in the USA, Canada, Australia, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain and a number of other countries have been confirmed. The first cases of infection, which were mentioned on May 7, were recorded in residents of the UK who returned from Nigeria. How and under what circumstances does monkeypox infect humans?

- Basically, the monkeypox virus is transmitted by airborne droplets and through objects. Most of those infected are young men between the ages of 21 and 40. But if it turns out that this virus is of artificial origin, it is pointless to discuss how it is transmitted. And there is reason to assume that this virus is of laboratory origin. The fact is that studies on the monkeypox virus were and are being conducted at the US Military Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick, Frederick, Maryland, USA. Lab leak not ruled out

- As far as I know, other mysterious stories were connected with this American institute. One of the versions of the army vaccine against anthrax was being developed there. Also, this institute has been studying the characteristics of Ebola since 1997, and in 2006-2007 organized its own laboratory in Sierra Leone, where an outbreak of this disease then occurred ...

- Smallpox is also considered one of the types of biological weapons. Monkeypox research, as far as I know, is ongoing at the US Military Institute in Maryland. In general, in addition to the United States, smallpox strains are also stored here in one of the institutes in Novosibirsk. We did not destroy these samples, it is strategically important to have them, since in the USA the smallpox strain has not been destroyed, on the contrary, they are working with it. Although now this strain can be synthesized. In Africa, the monkeypox virus may be circulating as endemic from animals. But this does not mean that the focus of monkeypox was in Africa ...

- Various versions have been expressed about the origin of Covid-19. Do you think it came from the natural environment, from bats, or is it also man-made?

- I am inclined to believe that SARS Cov-2 also had a laboratory origin. The spread of this virus in the world was too fast and massive. There is no such miracle from bats. There should have been a whole series of mutations from bats, but here everything is at once, and abruptly. But information about this is suppressed in the world.

- The monkeypox virus is spreading quite quickly. Will it be declared a pandemic?

- Now it is difficult to talk about it. Since the virus is spreading rapidly, it could potentially. Let's remember that when the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, there were no such high statistics of morbidity and mortality yet. To date, there is no reason to declare monkeypox a pandemic. But the statistics of mortality from this disease, even at 3% in Africa, is alarming. This is an impressive number.

- The first symptoms of monkeypox are now known. In the first days after infection, the temperature rises in patients, the lymph nodes swell, the head and muscles ache. A few days later, a rash appears on the skin, which turns into large papules filled with fluid. What other distinctive symptoms of monkeypox can be named?

- The incubation period for monkeypox is about three weeks. As a rule, the disease affects people with weakened immune systems. Against this background, pneumonia joins.

- Is there any protection against this disease?

- Our Soviet smallpox vaccination, which was universally vaccinated against all those born before the 80th year, can protect against monkeypox. So we can say that most of our population - those who were born under the USSR - is an age contingent, people at risk are protected in Russia. This vaccine was made on the basis of cowpox, it perfectly protects humans as well. Now it would be logical to deploy mass vaccination against smallpox, especially since we have an excellent vaccine, probably the best in the world .

- In 1959-1960, the USSR managed to stop the smallpox epidemic in just a month due to mass vaccination. Is it worth repeating this experience now?

- Academician Viktor Mikhailovich Zhdanov, a well-known Soviet virologist and epidemiologist, was one of the authors of the Global Smallpox Eradication Program developed in 1958. Thanks to this, we can be said to be better protected from smallpox than in other countries. In any case, the best experience in the fight against this virus belongs to our country.