Show Summary Details
Page of




Geoffrey L. Smith



Pathogenesis—cell entry.

Smallpox—risk of bioterrorist use; treatment or postexposure prophylaxis with cidofovir.

Monkeypox—possible prevention with smallpox vaccines and treatment with cidofovir.

Updated on 31 May 2012. The previous version of this content can be found here.
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD MEDICINE ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Medicine Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 23 April 2017

Poxviruses are large, complex DNA viruses that have played several seminal roles in medicine and biological science. Cowpox virus was introduced by Jenner as the first human vaccine in 1796; widespread vaccination with vaccinia virus led to the global eradication of smallpox in 1977, the only human disease to have been eradicated.

Smallpox—caused by variola virus, the most infamous poxvirus. A systemic infection, spread by the respiratory route, with characteristic skin blisters that had a centrifugal distribution on the body and, with variola major, produced mortality rates of 30 to 40% in unvaccinated populations.

Other poxviruses—molluscum contagiosum is the only other poxvirus that infects only humans, causing benign skin tumours that may be single or multiple, typically persisting for months before undergoing spontaneous regression (see Chapter 7.5.28). Several other poxviruses may cause zoonotic infections in humans, including cowpox virus, vaccinia virus, monkeypox virus, orf virus, psuedocowpox virus, tanapox virus and Yaba monkey tumour virus.

The development of vaccinia virus as an expression vector pioneered the concept of using genetically engineered viruses as live vaccines. Poxviruses remain excellent models for studying virus-host interactions and virus immune evasion strategies.

Access to the complete content on Oxford Medicine Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.