Alternative sampling specimens for the molecular detection of mpox (formerly monkeypox) virus
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
BACKGROUND: Mpox (formerly monkeypox) is a viral disease caused by the mpox virus (MPXV), endemic in Central and West Africa and currently causing a global outbreak of international concern. Much remains unknown about sample types most suited for mpox laboratory diagnosis. While it is established that high viral loads can be found in active skin lesions (currently the recommended mpox laboratory confirmation specimen type), WHO mpox testing guidelines encourage the use of oropharyngeal swabs as an additional sample type for mpox diagnosis and suggest investigating the value of other specimens like blood samples.
OBJECTIVE: In this study, we verified the value of select alternative specimen types for mpox laboratory confirmation.
METHODS: We included 25 patients with MPXV-confirmed skin lesions to compare diagnostic sensitivity of MPXV PCR testing on EDTA plasma and two upper respiratory specimens: oropharyngeal swabs and saliva.
RESULTS: In our patient cohort with MPXV-confirmed skin lesions, diagnostic sensitivity of MPXV PCR was 80% in EDTA plasma, 64% in oropharyngeal swabs, and 88% in saliva. MPXV viral loads were significantly higher in saliva compared to oropharyngeal swabs and EDTA plasma.
DISCUSSION: The WHO recommendation to collect oropharyngeal swabs as an additional specimen for mpox diagnosis might need to be revised to include saliva wherever feasible. We suggest investigating saliva as a diagnostic specimen in the absence of active skin lesions or during the phase preceding skin manifestations. Moreover, the relatively high MPXV DNA content of saliva warrants elucidating its potential role in disease transmission.