A group of global experts convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) have agreed on new names for monkeypox virus variants in a move meant to end stereotypes linked with the disease.
The monkeypox virus was named upon first discovery in 1958 before current best practices in naming diseases and viruses were adopted.
Major variants were identified by the geographic regions where they were known to circulate.
The current best practice is that newly-identified viruses, related diseases, and virus variants should be given names to avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups and minimizing any negative impact on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare.
The new practice gives WHO the responsibility to assign new names to existing diseases while naming virus will be handled by the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).
Experts in pox virology, evolutionary biology, and representatives of research institutes from across the globe reviewed the phylogeny and nomenclature of known and new monkeypox virus variants or clades.
After discussing the characteristics and evolution of monkeypox virus variants, their apparent phylogenetic and clinical differences, and potential consequences for public health and future virological and evolutionary research, they reached a consensus on new nomenclature for the virus clades that are in line with best practices.
The former Congo Basin (Central African) variant will now be referred as Clade one (I) and the former West African clade as Clade two (II). Additionally, it was agreed that Clade II consists of two subclades.