Presymptomatic viral shedding in high-risk contacts of monkeypox cases: a prospective cohort study

ITM Monkeypox Study Group

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The risk of infection after exposure to clade IIb mpox virus (MPXV) is unknown, and potential presymptomatic shedding of MPXV remains to be demonstrated. High-risk contacts of mpox patients were followed-up in a prospective longitudinal cohort study. Individuals reporting sexual contact, >15 min skin-to-skin contact, or living in the same household with an mpox patient were recruited in a sexual health clinic in Antwerp, Belgium. Participants kept a symptom diary, performed daily self-sampling (anorectal, genital, and saliva), and presented for weekly clinic visits for physical examination and sampling (blood and oropharyngeal). Samples were tested for MPXV by PCR. Between June 24 and July 31, 2022, 25 contacts were included, of which 12/18 (66.0%) sexual and 1/7 (14.0%) nonsexual contacts showed evidence of infection by MPXV-PCR. Six cases had typical mpox symptoms. Viral DNA was detected as early as 4 days before symptom onset in 5 of them. In 3 of these cases, replication-competent virus was demonstrated in the presymptomatic phase. These findings confirm the existence of presymptomatic shedding of replication-competent MPXV and emphasize the high risk of transmission during sexual contact. Sexual contacts of mpox cases should abstain from sex during the incubation period, irrespective of symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28769
JournalJournal of Medical Virology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Monkeypox
  • Prospective Studies
  • Virus Shedding
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities


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