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Detection of monkeypox: Mass spectrometry proves once again its effectiveness

A team from Li2D (SPI, Marcoule) has made public the peptidomic profile of the virus responsible for monkeypox (MPXV), which they established using tandem mass spectrometry. In particular, she identified 9 peptides that are strictly specific to MPXV. These data should help to better understand the evolution of the epidemic and allow the creation of targeted tests to potentially detect the threat more quickly and prevent a new epidemic.

Published on 28 November 2022

Detection of monkeypox-specific peptides

On October 12, 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported approximately 70,000 cases of monkeypox virus (MPXV) infection in 107 countries. Infection with this virus, a zoonotic pathogen isolated in 1970 in various countries in sub-Saharan Africa, has recently experienced an unexpected and worrisome resurgence in non-endemic countries. The development of tools is therefore necessary to monitor and better understand the evolution of the epidemic. 

With the exception of PCR or genomic sequencing, tests are currently not able to discriminate between different Orthopoxviruses (genus to which MPXV belongs). The Li2D team (SPI, Marcoule), which had already demonstrated the efficiency of high-resolution tandem mass spectrometry for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 signature peptides, used an equivalent method to analyze MPXV-infected cells. In particular, she multiplied data acquisition strategies to cover the "whole" proteome. 

In her study, published in the journal Proteomics, she provides a complete proteomic dataset of MPXV. Out of all the peptides detected from 152 viral proteins (covering nearly 80% of the proteome), the team showed that 9 abundant peptides were specific to this virus species and are therefore the most relevant for the detection of this pathogen. 

A big plus for open science 

Until now, the composition of the MPXV peptidome was not as well documented and no corresponding raw data were freely available. Less than a month after the initial report on the outbreak (May 13, 2022) the data was deposited in a public database (PRIDE, PRoteomics IDEntification Database of EMBL-EBI) perfectly fitting their approach in the framework of "Open Science". The available information can help the scientific community to better understand the functioning of the virus and the evolution of the epidemic.

The handling of MPXV samples is particularly restrictive because of the specific risks associated with it. As mass spectrometry is possible on inactivated samples, it could play a key role in the near future for the rapid detection of pathogens.

Contact Joliot : 

Jean Armengaud (

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