Watching for monkeypox in wildlife

Rodents like the Gambian pouched rat (Cricetomys gambianus) can host the monkeypox virus. As the virus spreads, researchers worry about it reaching other mammals beyond its normal range. Credit: louisvarley

As its name suggests, there’s nothing unusual about monkeypox appearing in animal species. But scientists are worried that as the virus spreads around the world, it could find reservoirs in wild animals beyond its usual range, such as rodents. Those animals could then transmit the virus back to people.

“Then we are in trouble,” Malachy Okeke, a virologist at the American University of Nigeria, tells Nature. If the virus spread among wild animal populations, it would become “impossible to eliminate,” he says.

Monkeypox is known to infect over 50 mammal species, particularly rodents and other small mammals in Africa. As the virus spreads more among people, it raises the chances of the virus interacting with animals. The first known case of a human-to-animal transmission involved a pet dog in France. If it reached rodents, researchers worry, it could complicate efforts to control it.

Read more in Nature.