NEW YORK: While rapid at-home test kits became an instant success during the Covid-19 pandemic, a similar attempt for monkeypox seems unlikely, media reports said.
The recent global monkeypox outbreak brings a sense of deja vu with the Covid pandemic, which included painful swabs, the struggle to find a test, and a long wait for results. But the diseases are different, the Verge reported.
Unlike Covid, monkeypox isn't a respiratory disease; and the test for Covid targeted the nose and mouth.
Monkeypox, on the other hand, is manifested as painful, blister-like sores, and other symptoms like fever and muscle aches. Currently, the disease is detected by swabbing the sores that appear over the course of an infection.
Monkeypox is "a different enough" infection, Ben Pinsky, the medical co-director for point of care testing at Stanford Health Care in the US, was quoted as saying.
There is still a lot of work to do to figure out if people are able to successfully swab their own lesions, which could be painful or difficult, he added.
Further, the reliance on lesions means that patients can only be tested once the telltale signs of the disease appear. People who remain asymptomatic -- particularly with no lesions -- wouldn't be able to take a test.
People can test for Covid-19, on the other hand, without waiting for any specific symptoms to appear.
"I'm a strong advocate for home testing of diseases, but you have to have the right sample at the right time, and we aren't there yet," Paul Yager, Professor in the department of bioengineering at the University of Washington, was quoted as saying.
But, the potential for rapid at-home test kits cannot be overlooked, the report said.
A small study, published in the Eurosurveillance in June, detected monkeypox virus DNA in saliva, and semen, among 12 patients in Spain.
A California-based company, Flow Health, has also developed a saliva-based molecular test for monkeypox, which asks people to spit in a tube and then send the sample for PCR testing.
The test is not authorised or approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, which asks monkeypox tests to be run on lesions
The company is sharing its saliva test data with the FDA as the agency checks to see if it should update its guidance, Flow Health CEO Alex Meshkin told The Verge.
There's, however, still a lot to do in order to figure out how and when the monkeypox virus shows up in different parts of the body over the course of the disease, which will influence how effective and accurate tests that don't use lesions might be.
If the monkeypox virus shows up in saliva before lesions develop, for example, then a saliva-based test could help flag the disease early on. But if it doesn't, that type of test might not be as useful, the report said.