Smallpox vaccine may offer protection against mpox, study finds

Smallpox vaccinations may present a degree of protection from mpox infection, research from several Spain physicians has found.

In a research letter published Feb. 3 in the CDC's Emerging Infectious Disease journal, a lead author of the study, Iván Sanz-Muñoz, PhD, from the National Influenza Center of Valladolid wrote that due to the large scale of smallpox vaccination worldwide before the disease was eradicated in 1980, the findings suggest that many people over 50 might actually be protected from both smallpox and mpox.  

They found that of the 162 individuals age 50 and older who were studied, nearly 69 percent had detectable antibodies against mpox. 

"As the 2022 mpox outbreak spread worldwide, protection against smallpox has become a focus of interest because smallpox vaccination might provide some protection against monkeypox virus," the authors of the research wrote. 

They also noted that their research did have limitations — including a lower number of participants than they'd hoped for as well as difficulty knowing the vaccination status of the individuals they did study — so further investigative steps should be taken.

"Before taking this approach if the outbreak spreads to additional persons, concerns need to be addressed about whether smallpox vaccination provides real cross-protection and, if so, whether protection has waned over time," they wrote.

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