Global research partnerships to address the mpox virus
As the world saw with COVID-19, if zoonotic diseases are not effectively controlled, they can spread beyond their endemic areas and cause global pandemics. In 2022, we saw exactly this with the monkeypox (mpox) virus, a zoonotic disease endemic to several parts of Central and West Africa that quickly spread around the globe, including to Canada.
As part of Canada’s response to the mpox outbreak, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada, and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, announced an investment of CAD5.5 million in two research projects involving researchers from Canada, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Funding for these projects is provided by IDRC and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s (CIHR) Centre for Research on Pandemic Preparedness and Health Emergencies.
Commenting on this commitment to mpox research, Minister Sajjan said, “With mpox becoming more prevalent, we are pleased that IDRC will collaborate with CIHR to fund research here in Canada and in regions of Africa where the virus is endemic. Efforts that bring scientists from Canada and West and Central Africa together will allow us to make new contributions to pandemic preparedness and response.” In addition, Minister Duclos noted, “Every Canadian has experienced the impact of a global pandemic. I am happy to say that CIHR is partnering with IDRC to tackle mpox at home and in its endemic regions of Africa. Together with scientists in West and Central Africa, we can develop ways to monitor mpox and protect high-risk communities against it.”
The following two teams will study mpox transmission and evaluate potential vaccines and treatments, disseminating this knowledge to public health officials, policymakers and high-risk communities:
Dr. Darrell Tan of St. Michael’s Hospital and Dr. Rosemary Audu of the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research will collaborate on the creation of the Canadian-African Mpox Partnership (CAMP) — a consortium in Canada and Nigeria that will engage high-risk communities to better understand mpox transmission and evaluate the efficacy of antivirals and vaccination in real-world applications.
Dr. Jason Kindrachuk of the University of Manitoba and Dr. Placide Mbala of the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (Democratic Republic of Congo) will leverage the International Mpox Response Consortium (IMREC) to rapidly investigate knowledge gaps, test vaccine efficacy in study sites across nine African countries and five Canadian provinces, contribute to global mpox surveillance and disseminate findings quickly to public health officials and policymakers around the world.
In 2022, mpox spread to many non-endemic areas around the globe, including Canada. This precipitated a global response and demonstrated the need for further study of this virus. The first human case of mpox was identified in Africa in 1970.
The total number of confirmed cases of mpox in Canada was 1,456 as of November 25, 2022, with the most cases in Ontario and Quebec. Over 70,000 cases have been confirmed globally.
The World Health Organization considered this mpox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.