UK Health Security Agency launches study to determine whether mpox can be transmitted asymptomatically, by people without any obvious symptoms

Graham Robson August 22, 2023

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has launched a new study to determine whether mpox (also known as monkeypox) can be transmitted asymptomatically, by people without any obvious symptoms.

The £1 million PResymptomatIc MonkEypox / Mpox (PRIME) study, funded by the Medical Research Council, is asking anyone in England aged 18 or over who knows they have been in close sexual contact with an mpox case to come forward to participate.

Participants have until September 2023 to complete a short questionnaire about previous exposures to people with mpox, their vaccination status and will be asked to do a self-collection blood test to check whether they have developed antibodies to mpox.

The results of this study will inform the public health outbreak response, providing data to support future vaccination and testing strategies.

Dr Colin Brown, Deputy Director at UKHSA, said: “This is an exciting area of research which should provide us with valuable insights into the spread of mpox. It will give us a better understanding of who has developed antibodies from vaccination, exposure to the virus, or both. This will inform vaccination and sexual health testing strategies and improve our understanding of how we can prevent or manage future outbreaks and better support those affected.

“If you’re asked to participate either by us or through social media outreach on platforms such as Instagram and Grindr, please do take up the offer and help us with this vital research to ensure we continue to protect against this disease.

“Vaccinations against the disease also remain available in London for those eligible following a spike in cases earlier this year, so please come forward for the jab if you haven’t yet.”

Dr Benjamin Weil, Programme Coordinator at The Love Tank, said: “We are happy to be a part of the PRIME study, the results of which we believe will help garner further support for the communities affected by mpox that we have been working alongside.

“We hope that anyone eligible for the study will also see the benefit of taking part – both for themselves and for the community around them.”

Research has shown that some people can be infected with mpox without showing any symptoms (asymptomatic disease), but these have been small studies and the extent to which this happens is unclear. This study aims to clarify how common this is among people who have been exposed to the virus.

Everyone at highest risk from mpox is eligible for two doses of the vaccine; UKHSA data has shown that one dose of the vaccine offers 78% protection against the virus from 14 days after receiving it, and the second dose aims to provide longer term protection.

UKHSA hopes to recruit 2,000 participants. For more info, CLICK HERE