CDC taps Mayo Clinic to run 10K monkeypox tests per week in partnership that may be the new norm

Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic Laboratories is now testing for monkeypox, the CDC said July 11.

The agency is recruiting some of the biggest private labs in the country to bolster testing efforts. William Morice II, MD, PhD, president of Mayo Clinic Laboratories, told Becker's the push for more testing is because of the current outbreak's abnormally high human-to-human transmission and its atypical presentation.

"Patients would typically get a flu-like illness for about a week, and then a rash over their entire body like chickenpox," Dr. Morice said. "This outbreak, many patients aren't getting that sick feeling. They're just getting the rash, which is also more limited than usual, so they're less likely to seek medical care."

Dr. Morice said some patients are only getting a rash in the genital and anal regions, which can cause confusion by mimicking a sexually transmitted infection. Luckily, so far most patients aren't getting severely ill, and the skin-to-skin transmission means it shouldn't spread as easily as airborne viruses, he said.

Mayo Clinic Labs is using the CDC's orthopoxvirus test, and it's expected to handle up to 10,000 tests per week, the agency said. The data from the increased testing should give a more accurate look at the extent of the outbreak.

"If we still see a positivity rate of 20 percent or higher, then you're going to know we need a lot more testing," Dr. Morice said. "If the rate drops significantly, then it probably is more of a limited outbreak that people can focus on getting testing to the public health labs."

Dr. Morice said he expects to see the positivity rate drop once more testing data comes in. Regardless, the response to the current monkeypox outbreak is likely more robust than it would be had it not come on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. It could be an indicator of what the U.S. outbreak testing infrastructure will look like in the future.

"I think you're probably going to see a push toward more of a standing public-private lab partnership, so that we can really harness the full laboratory testing capabilities of the country when it's needed," Dr. Morice said.

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