Tale of 2 clades: Virologist calls on WHO to rename monkeypox first
It is too soon for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to refer to monkeypox subvariants as clades, an expert virologist said.
WHO met virologists and public health experts earlier this month, and they decided that the Congo Basin and West African subvariants will be referred to as Clade I and Clade II respectively.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Dr Yong Poovorawan pointed out that the word “clade” means a subgroup and subvariants of a virus are normally named with numbers and alphabets, like influenza A H1N1 or Hepatitis C.
Dr Yong said WHO decided to call the two variants Clade I and Clade II because it wanted to avoid reference to Africa. However, he said, WHO is still looking for a new name for monkeypox to prevent stigmatisation, so referring to the subvariants as just Clade I and Clade II can be quite confusing.
He explained that previously diseases were named after places where they were first found like the Spanish Flu or the host of the virus such as avian or swine flu. However, this system of naming new viruses has been dropped to prevent targeting.
Dr Yong, who hails from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, said monkeypox comes from the virus in the pox group, so its name should start with a P. He said this is better than wrongly referring to a subvariant as just a “clade”.
He also explained that a different nomenclature is used when naming viruses. For instance, SARS CoV-2 is the virus’s name, while Covid-19 is the name of the disease. In this case, Covid is an acronym of the full name, while 19 refers to the year the virus was discovered.