(Bloomberg) -- Roche Holding AG has developed three PCR test kits to help scientists trace the monkeypox virus, adding another diagnostic tool as public health authorities seek to contain the outbreak.
One of the kits screens for monkeypox only, while two of them can detect other orthopoxviruses, a genus of viruses that includes smallpox as well as monkeypox. The tests will aid in tracing spread and will be available in most countries, Roche said in a statement on Wednesday.
After infecting people in developing countries for decades, monkeypox is now spreading rapidly in Europe and the US. That has triggered worries, though the World Health Organization and other authorities have advised calm and said the outbreak can be contained. One key containment measure is the ability to identify cases quickly, so close contacts of people who’ve gotten sick can isolate to prevent further spread of the disease.
This strain of virus may have been transmitting below the radar before the current clusters of cases emerged, Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the WHO, said in an interview on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.
“It still needs close physical contact to spread,” she said, adding that rave parties may have facilitated infections. “If you have a typical outbreak in a small community it would spread within the household and then be contained within a few contacts, but here you have a lot of contact between a few people, and then they’ve gone back to their countries and spread it further.”
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