Heidelberg, 29 September 2022 – Blood plasma proteins whose production is increased during the acute phase of viral infections can predict the future severity of disease and also provide a foundation for translatable biomarker panels. This finding has come from a study conducted at The Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin to gain a better understanding of monkeypox (MPX), which has recently extended well beyond areas of Africa where it is normally endemic.
The study, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, examined the expression profile of key plasma proteins in a group of MPX patients with a similar infection history and typical clinical manifestation for the current outbreak, contrasting that with COVID-19. This was done because COVID-19 was the first disease for which a large amount of plasma protein response data became available, enabling the development of MPX to be compared and contrasted, leading towards a broader understanding of viral disease pathology in general.
The study, conducted with six individuals who share a similar infection history, provides strong indications that proteomic based tests based on well-established mass-spectrometry can play a significant role in future diagnostics going beyond of the identification of the causal virus. The study identified several peptides derived from blood proteins, whose profiles had statistically robust correlation with disease severity for MPX, as determined by the number of skin lesions. This could lead to effective panel assays that are both sufficiently low cost and simple to use for regular implementation in the clinic.
This could enable testing across a panel of severity markers that could help assess likelihood of severe symptoms developing among patients in endemic regions and possibly help elucidate the pathophysiological differences between the Central African and West African clades (lineages) of MPX in the future, since these differ in severity. The results also suggest that the panel could be extended to rare and neglected diseases, as an attractive toolkit for systemic analyses. This may be possible because the study has shown that data from just a limited number of cases can be generalized and extrapolated to a larger base of people with a given disease.
At the same time, the study’s data suggests there is untapped potential for repurposing biomarker panel assays between viral diseases, for although MPX had a distinct signature from COVID-19, there was a sufficient overlap that the host response to one could be identified from a panel assay designed for the other. This could be valuable given the large investment already made in developing assays for COVID-19. The results obtained so far are preliminary because of the limited study size and should be followed by further research to confirm the potential for developing a proteomic panel test applicable across different viral diseases that can also predict how a disease is likely to develop, if conducted at an early stage.
EMBO Molecular Medicine
The human host response to monkeypox infection: a proteomic case series study
Ziyue Wang, Pinkus Tober-Lau, Vadim Farztdinov, Oliver Lemke, Torsten Schwecke, Sarah Steinbrecher, Julia Muenzner, Helene Kriedemann, Leif Erik Sander, Johannes Hartl, Michael Mülleder, Markus Ralser, Florian Kurth
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