Therapeutic and Prophylactic Drugs to Treat Orthopoxvirus Infections

Scott Parker; Lauren Handley; R Mark Buller


Future Virology. 2008;3(6):595-612. 

In This Article


With the global eradication of smallpox in 1979, the causative agent, variola, no longer circulates in human populations. Other human poxvirus infections, such as those caused by vaccinia, cowpox virus and molluscum, are usually relatively benign in immunocompetent individuals. Conversely, monkeypox virus infections cause high levels of mortality and morbidity in Africa and the virus appears to be increasing its host range, virulence and demographic environs. Furthermore, there are concerns that clandestine stocks of variola virus exist. The re-introduction of aerosolized variola (or perhaps monkeypox virus) into human populations would result in high levels of morbidity and mortality. The attractiveness of variola as a bioweapon and, to a certain extent, monkeypox virus is its inherent ability to spread from person-to-person. The threat posed by the intentional release of variola or monkeypox virus, or a monkeypox virus epizoonosis, will require the capacity to rapidly diagnose the disease and to intervene with antivirals, as intervention is likely to take place during the initial diagnosis, approximately 10–15 days postinfection. Preimmunization of 'at-risk populations' with vaccines will likely not be practical, and the therapeutic use of vaccines has been shown to be ineffective after 4 days of infection with variola. However, a combination of vaccine and antivirals for those infected may be an option. Here we describe historical, current and future therapies to treat orthopoxvirus diseases.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: