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Poxviruses 

Poxviruses

Chapter:
Poxviruses
Author(s):

Geoffrey L. Smith

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199204854.003.070504_update_001

Update:

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.
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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.

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