The Univeristy of Melbourne The Royal Melbourne Hopspital

A joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital


Correlation between monkeypox viral load and infectious virus in clinical specimens


  • Lim, Chuan Kok
  • McKenzie, Charlene
  • Deerain, Joshua
  • Chow, Eric P.F.
  • Towns, Janet
  • Chen, Marcus Y
  • Fairley, Christopher K
  • Tran, Thomas
  • Williamson, Deborah A


Journal of Clinical Virology, Volume 161, 2023-04-30

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Background In the 2022 mpox outbreak, several studies have explored longitudinal DNA shedding of mpox virus (MPXV) using PCR. However, there are fewer studies assessing infectivity in cell culture, and, by inference, MPXV transmissibility. Such information could help inform infection control and public health guidelines. Aims and Methods The aim of this study was to correlate cell culture infectivity of clinical samples with viral loads in clinical samples. Between May to October 2022, clinical samples from different body sites sent to the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory in Melbourne, Australia for MPXV PCR detection were cultured in Vero cells as a surrogate for infectivity. Results In the study period, 144 samples from 70 patients were tested by MPXV PCR. Viral loads in skin lesions were significantly higher than those in throat or nasopharyngeal samples (median Ct 22.0 vs 29.0, p = 0.0013 and median Ct 22.0 vs 36.5, p = 0.0001, respectively). Similarly, viral loads were significantly higher in anal samples compared to throat or nasopharyngeal samples (median Ct 20.0 vs. 29.0, p=<0.0001 and median Ct 20.0 vs. 36.5, p=<0.0001, respectively). Viral culture was successfully performed in 80/94 samples. Using logistic regression analysis, 50% of the samples were positive in viral culture at Ct 34.1 (95% confidence intervals 32.1–37.4). Conclusions Our data further validate recent findings showing that samples with a higher MPXV viral load are more likely to demonstrate infectivity in cell culture. Although the presence of infectious virus in cell culture may not directly translate with clinical transmission risk, our data may be used as an adjunct help inform guidelines on testing and isolation policies in individuals with mpox.