Companies look to expand PCR testing for monkeypox

In light of a global monkeypox outbreak, lab companies and health officials are looking to expand PCR testing for the virus in the U.S., CNN reported May 30.

Dozens of U.S. public health labs are using a more generalized test for orthopoxvirus, the umbrella category that includes monkeypox and smallpox, the report said. Lab companies Roche and Abbott are planning monkeypox PCR tests that are approved only for research purposes but could be granted emergency use authorization if the need arises.

There are 74 labs across 46 states using the FDA-cleared orthopoxvirus test, with a weekly capacity of about 7,000 tests, the report said.

"I think that more diagnostic tests closer to patients is better. Commercial assays are even better," Amesh Adalja, MD, a Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security's Bloomberg School of Public Health senior scholar, told CNN. "But the fact is, there are no other orthopoxviruses out there right now."

That means the more general orthopoxvirus test currently being used is a de facto monkeypox test, and a more specific or detailed assay likely is not needed yet. Dr. Adalja told CNN the current capacity for monkeypox testing generally is not a major public health concern right now, though there is room for it to speed up or become more widely available.

"It would be great if Quest and LabCorp could do it." Dr. Adalja said. "It'd be great if there were kits that people could put in sexually transmitted infection clinics to definitively diagnose. But I don't think right now you're hampering the public health response, just because there's no other orthopoxvirus circulating."

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